A lot of people in Decatur are mourning the COVID-19 death of a popular sous chef. He died this month after coming down with the virus.
Deran Hill worked at Josie's as a sous and pastry chef for almost three years. We talked with his co-workers and friends about their memories of a man they say is gone too soon.
"We worked together and just over working, we got to know each other and became very good friends," said Caitlin Fite, friend of Deran Hill.
Fite has been friends with Deran Hill for almost a decade. She says they talked almost everyday.
"We had actually, right before he went in the hospital, talked about him coming over and cooking for me and my husband," said Fite.
Unfortunately, Hill never got to leave the hospital after his boss, John Wheat, brought him to the ER, one of the few times Wheat says he hasn't seen Hill smile.
"I could see the concern in his face and he was not smiling that morning," said John Wheat, owner of Josie's.
Hill turned 41 while in the Decatur-Morgan Hospital.
"He had just turned 41 and I told him 'happy birthday' and that would've been our last conversation," said Fite.
Hill, who had underlying health conditions, died a few days after his birthday.
"As far as Deran as a person, I don't think you'll find a kinder, sweeter, more gentle man. He literally always had a smile on his face," said Wheat.
A smile that will be missed by many.
"He really enjoyed visiting with the guests and they all loved him. He would come out of the kitchen with a big smile on his face and the guests just adored him," said Wheat.
That smile won't be gone forever, though. Wheat says they're getting a portrait done of him.
"We decided it would be fitting to put Deran on the wall in the restaurant," said Wheat.
A public viewing is being held Wednesday, and graveside services will be on Thursday for Deran Hill.
More than 10,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Alabama, and around 21% of those deaths are in people younger than 65.