Over the past seven years, hundreds of local people have eaten on Gilbert Isaac’s dime.
The Summit man, with the help of his relatives, puts on an enormous fish fry annually, distributing plates of catfish with sides of potato salad, green beans and scrumptuous poundcake baked by his daughter Amelia to the elderly, poor and infirmed.
He’s cooked the fish outside of the Summit Fire Department for the past three years. Before that he set up his two-burner propane stove in The Bottoms of Summit and held the first time at the Golden Corral in McComb.
On Saturday, Isaac was cooking outside the firehouse along with his grandsons Jeremiah Johnson, 14, and Josiah Johnson, 10.
“I’m teaching them how to do the fish,” said Isaac, who retired from Amtrak.
He showed up at the station at 9 a.m. with an ice chest loaded with 55 pounds of fillets. As that ran low he sent out for about $30 worth of whole catfish and had to make another run for fillets before he shut it down mid-afternoon.
“I buy the best fish,” Isaac said.
They had a routine that Isaac was sure to make certain was followed.
Jeremiah and Josiah battered the fish fillets and Isaac would fry them, although Jeremiah had plenty of time at the fryer as well.
Inside, Isaac’s sisters and other volunteers plated the food.
Helpers also delivered meals for residents who couldn’t pick them up in person.
Isaac kept a notebook of everyone who would be getting a plate, with a list of residents who were to get theirs delivered. He didn’t know the names of everyone, but still wanted to make sure they were fed. Some of the people on the list had their name written out. Others who Isaac did not know were listed by where they lived, with descriptions like “across from her” and “grandmother over the bridge” written in the notebook.
Isaac spends hundreds of dollars of his own money into the event each year, just to make sure his friends and neighbors have lunch covered — for one day at least.
On Saturday 173 people received the free meals thank to his efforts.
“I always wanted to put back into my community,” he said.