In the last event at Fischer’s Restaurant, about 500 people packed the landmark restaurant for the 52nd annual Belleville Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast on Wednesday morning.
The restaurant will close its doors at 3 p.m. and an auction is scheduled for March 2.
Col. Laura L. Lenderman, commander of the 375th Air Mobility Wing at Scott Air Force Base, was the keynote speaker for the prayer breakfast.
Mayor Mark Eckert said it was “a sad day” to see the end of Fischer’s Restaurant but he thanked the daughters of the late owner Kenny Fischer and restaurant employees for their service.
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“It is a sad day but as I said to many people in recent weeks, if every business that ever started could know they could make 80-plus years … I think everyone wouldn’t hesitate to start a business,” Eckert said. “It’s sad to see this institution come to an end today but what great memories.”
Eckert said most of the Belleville Mayor’s Prayer Breakfasts have been held at Fischer’s.
Both Lenderman and Eckert praised the community for its support of the service members stationed at Scott Air Force Base for the entire 100 years the base has been open.
Lenderman said area residents brought home-cooked meals to the base in December 1917 when the recruits stationed there couldn’t leave because of a measles outbreak.
And Eckert noted the Belle-Scott Committee, which works to promote a good relationship between Belleville and Scott Air Force Base, is celebrating its 67th anniversary this year.
Lenderman gave the audience an insight on how prayer is part of her life.
“I am a firm believer in positive leadership, focusing on our strengths, seeing the good in others and finding opportunities in challenging situations,” Lenderman said. “And for me, this type of positive leadership is rooted in faith and it’s grounded in prayer.
“However, I don’t turn to prayer only in times of trouble,” she said. “Rather, prayer is part of my daily practice, and it begins with opening my heart and mind to God.”
Lenderman said in a nod to her three initials, she follows the “three L’s” method to maintain positive leadership: Listen, love and lift. You understand new ways of thinking by listening to others, you can bridge diverse perspectives by loving others and in difficult times, you work together to lift each other up, she said.
Eckert also talked about how prayer enters his life.
He recalled how his son, Army Lt. Col. Matthew Eckert, who is a medical doctor, received his first posting overseas.
“Until 2010 when my son was deployed for the first time, I didn’t truly understand what it was like to be a parent or a loved one of having” a family member deployed overseas, he said.
Eckert acknowledged that Lenderman noted in her speech that you should pray all the time, not just in difficult times.
“But in all honesty, we’d have to admit when you’re worried and you’re fearful and concerned, you pray a lot more.”
To complement the Bible readings that traditionally are presented at the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, the audience also heard a reading from the Quran given by Lma Awwad.
Eckert said he believes this was the first time a reading from the Quran was given at the prayer breakfast and he praised the organizing committee, which reached out to the Islamic community.
“It’s the right thing to do,” he said after the event.