On Friday, September 18, 2015, Willie Mae Seaton died at age 99.
Seaton was born in Crystal Springs, Mississippi and moved to New Orleans with her husband in her 20s, during WWII. While her husband worked at a local shipyard, Seaton worked a variety of jobs, including driving a taxi, working at a dry cleaners and was also a licensed beautician.
Willie Mae’s Scotch House opened in 1957, first as a bar, and later as a restaurant. Seaton tended the bar for about 15 years before finally becoming its chef.
Her restaurant won the James Beard Foundation’s America’s Classic award in 2005. She said at the time:
I want to thank each and every one of you all that made it possible for me to win this award. I’m so full, I can’t say nothing.
The building was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and the post-Katrina levee failure. It was rebuilt and reopened in April 2007.
Seaton’s great-granddaughter, Kerry Seaton-Stewart, now runs the Treme restaurant and its recently opened outpost, Willie Mae’s Grocery and Deli on St. Charles Avenue.