Dining With Denise Neil

Wichita restaurant where injured singer Jenny Wood works creates a front-window tribute

Jenny Wood jams against bullying

(FILE VIDEO -- 2017) Local musician Jenny Wood sings her new song against bullying, "Don't Let Them Get In Your Head," with elementary students from the Wichita area.
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(FILE VIDEO -- 2017) Local musician Jenny Wood sings her new song against bullying, "Don't Let Them Get In Your Head," with elementary students from the Wichita area.

Don Wright still remembers when Jenny Wood turned in her application at Old Mill Tasty Shop two years ago.

Wright, who owns the longtime downtown restaurant with his mother, Mary, knew of Jenny Wood the musician but had never personally met her.

“She just walked in one day and put in an application, and I said, ‘Jenny Wood Wood?’” he said with a laugh. “She just grinned at me.”

Wood, who was seriously injured in a car crash on May 5 that also killed her mother, Maria Wood, and 12-year-old niece, Rosemary McElroy, has worked three or four days a week as a server at Old Mill Tasty Shop, 604 E. Douglas, for the past two years. Her older niece, Cat, the older sister of Rosemary, works there, too.

Both have become like family, Don Wright said.

The Jenny Wood tribute at Old Mill Tasty shop includes a “wishing well” where customers and friends can leave good thoughts or even money. Denise Neil The Wichita Eagle

As tributes and fundraisers by the dozens have been organized over the past couple of weeks, the Wrights have been trying to come up with the perfect way to honor Jenny and Cat.

On Wednesday morning, Don’s wife, Angela, put together a big display in the restaurant’s front window, which the staff usually fills with seasonal decorations. The tribute is complete with pictures of Wood working at the shop, smiling with family members and rocking out with her guitar. There’s also a banner that reads “We love you Jenny,” and Angela also added a gold pot that she’s calling a wishing well. She provided a pad of paper with pictures of Wood at the top and instructions asking well-wishers to write down a prayer or a blessing for Jenny — or to even leave money for her if they want.

“We’re going to save everything so when she’s all healed, we want her to be able to read everything,” Angela said. “We want to make some kind of book with everything in it. She is so loved.”

The staff at Old Mill was devastated by the accident, Don Wright said, and his mother, Mary, has been at the hospital almost every day with Jenny. Customers ask about her all the time.

Everyone at Old Mill has felt helpless since the accident, but the display in the window makes them feel like they’re contributing, he said.

“We’re all close to her,” Don Wright said. “We’ve been blessed with her.”

Jenny continues to recover at the hospital, and Don said he hopes that she’ll return to work when she’s well enough. Several fundraisers are planned for Wood and her family this weekend, including a benefit at Mort’s, 923 E. First St., from noon to 11 p.m. on Sunday, and a benefit at Jimmy’s Egg, Douglas and Hydraulic, where 50 percent of all Sunday sales will be donated.

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Denise Neil has covered restaurants and entertainment since 1997. Her Dining with Denise Facebook page is the go-to place for diners to get information about local restaurants. She’s a regular judge at local food competitions and speaks to groups all over Wichita about dining.