MACKSVILLE - Edna has been gone five years.
But the cast-iron grill she started cooking on in 1961 is still in service at Edna's Bar and Grill - lit by hand each day for the folks coming through the door wanting a hamburger, chicken sandwich or something else.
Don't blink or you might miss it. The white building is unassuming - once a fuel stop where folks could buy gas and beer. Yet, a small sign hangs out front proclaiming this is still Edna's. You'll know it's open: When it is, cars are always parked out front.
"Everyone loves the cheeseburgers," said Edna's owner Deanna Pontius, adding there is something unique about the flavor of a hamburger cooked on a nearly 60-year-old grill.
The atmosphere hasn't changed much, either. There are the same cozy booths and swivel bar stools that were there when Edna was the cook.
Yet the life of a diner owner isn't like the good old days, Pontius admitted as she stood behind the counter, the lunch crowd yet to arrive. Pontius, who reopened the business last year in the Stafford County town of 550, said she doesn't make much of a profit. Even her help just works for tips.
Edna, who died in 2011, was the grandmother of Pontius' husband, Bobby. And Pontius keeps the doors open just because she loves it.
"Just enough to pay the bills," Pontius said of her revenue. ""I mainly do it for the passion of it because I love this place. I love the people. I love to cook."
Staple along Highway 50
The place, after all, has history. In 1926, the structure consisted of a business that recharged and rebuilt auto and wet-cell radio batteries, as well as rebuilding and maintaining auto generators and starters, according to a Stafford County history website. Years later, gas and oil sales were added. However, it soon became cheaper to replace batteries.
When Cecil Wood bought it in 1961 for his wife, Edna, the building was mainly just a bar, said Pontius.
Edna ran the operation until 1977, when she sold it to her friend, Nancy Olmstead. Edna, however, continued to work with Nancy, serving up burgers and fries and other fixings, for several years.
Olmstead operated Edna's for 30 years. Pontius said her father-in-law, Bob Sr., bought Edna's - bringing the restaurant back into the family. He added on a second room. Pontius said she even worked with her father-in-law for a few years at the restaurant.
Bob Sr. died in 2014. Pontius said she and her husband knew he had tried everything he could to keep the small restaurant afloat.
Pontius, who married her husband, Bobby, in 1997, said he asked her what she wanted to do with the diner.
"My husband said we could either shut the doors and close it down or we could open it up," she said, adding he told her, " 'It's up to you.' "
Pontius, who learned to cook from her Cajun mother, couldn't imagine Macksville without Edna's.
"I didn't want to let it sit there," she said. "It's a restaurant; it should be used. It's been here forever."
The restaurant was closed about five or six months after Bob Sr.'s death as the couple worked to get the licenses needed, including to sell beer. They reopened Edna's in June 2015.
They keep the prices reasonable - pricing meals at enough to cover the expenses. They themed the newer addition for the Macksville High School Mustangs, which includes a football field wall painted by a daughter-in-law and a football-shaped table that Pontius' husband made.
And at Christmas, Pontius dresses up as Mrs. Claus, welcoming in the town's youths for a visit with Santa's wife.
By noontime, folks began trickling inside as the Pontiuses' daughter Dallas Murrow began cooking meat and toasting buns on the old cast-iron grill. April Turnbough took orders. Pontius said daughters Misty Murrow and Tina Rose also fill in where needed.
Mary Ann Stout, who said she was moving from Nebraska to Macksville to be closer to family, ordered a hamburger, adding that a good burger is "cooked, but don't kill it."
She said this one was "just right."
Small-town restaurants are one of a town's pillars.
"It keeps your community alive," Stout said.
Area resident Ann Grizzell picked up her 4-year-old granddaughter, Kyla, from preschool and stopped at Edna's for hamburgers to take to the field. She recalled her first trip to the restaurant - back when Edna still operated it. She and her dad sat up at the bar.
"It's kind of a landmark," she said. "It's a gathering place to see your neighbors."