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Marty’s BBQ founder dies

Posted on September 22, 2021

Updated on September 23, 2021

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A sign outside Marty's BBQ on Wednesday informs customers that the popular restaurant is closed due to co-owner Lawrence Ellis' death.

Brie Handgraaf | Times

A sign outside Marty's BBQ on Wednesday informs customers that the popular restaurant is closed due to co-owner Lawrence Ellis' death.

bhandgraaf@wilsontimes.com | 252-265-7821

The son of a Wilson barbecue titan and a restaurateur in his own right has died.

“It is with much sorrow that I have to announce that in the early hours of this morning, I was informed that Lawrence Ellis had passed away,” states a Wednesday morning post on the Marty’s BBQ Facebook page that garnered hundreds of reactions, comments and shares. “We ask not only for prayers for the family at this time, but also that we all respect the family’s privacy as they mourn their loss.”

William Lawrence Ellis, 60, was raised with his two siblings in the kitchen of his father’s popular eatery, Bill’s Barbecue. About three years ago, Ellis teamed up with Robert Mullett to turn a shuttered convenience store into Marty’s BBQ, a name that paid tribute to Ellis’ late brother.

The restaurant quickly developed a loyal audience with cars wrapping around the building as Wilsonians vied for a taste of pulled pork, fried chicken and Brunswick stew.

In the wake of Ellis’ death, the smokers were shut off and the doors remained locked Wednesday. The restaurant will be closed the day of the funeral. Joyner’s Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

Kountry Kitchen owner Tim Whitley posted to his restaurant’s Facebook page about working with Lawrence and Marty at Bill’s while in high school.

“Lawrence was a car guy back then and did something for me that I will never forget. I had a red Mustang with oxidized paint. He had me drive it to his place — on his day off — and proceeded to make my car look like new,” Whitley said. “Not a big deal to some, but I have never forgotten that simple act of kindness. His true character was revealed that day. He will be greatly missed.”

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