Berkeley barbecue loses another great with death of Mary Everett

Mary Everett, the owner of Berkeley’s Everett and Jones Barbeque, was known for feeding those in need and an epic holiday toy drive.

Mary Everett. Courtesy of Shamar Cotton

The East Bay has lost another member of a legendary barbecue family.

Mary Everett, longtime owner of the Berkeley location of family-run barbecue business Everett and Jones, died at Oakland’s Kaiser Hospital on Sept. 25 at the age of 65, according to her son, Shamar Cotton. A cause of death was not given.

Shamar Cotton told Nosh that his mother, known as May to her family, had ample friends, loved Corvettes, and helped others less fortunate through an annual holiday toy drive. “My mom was wonderful; she was a person who enjoyed like to the fullest,” he said. “How many people could you say had a divorce party?” 

“She just had a good heart,” said her son Terrell Cotton. “She was like a second mother to everybody that knew her.”

Everett’s loss comes just a few months after the death of her sister, fellow restaurateur Dorothy King. King, who co-owned Everett & Jones with other members of her family, ran the Jack London Square and MacArthur Boulevard locations of the popular restaurant. King died of breast cancer in March 2021, at age 69. She was known for giving out hundreds of free meals to the needy each week, and for hiring formerly homeless or incarcerated folks to work at the business.

Mary Everett and son Shamar Cotton. Credit: Shamar Cotton

Mary also ran her business with a side of charity. “Part of her legacy is that we feed people who are less fortunate,” Shamar said. “She said to always feed those in need, those that need a helping hand”

Everett’s toy drive was legendary. She was a fan of big parties, and always had a dress-up bash for her April birthday. It was a gala, sit-down affair with live music at venues like Oakland’s California Ballroom. “The only thing she asked for her guests is to bring a toy for a kid,” Shamar said. For more than 20 years, her toy drive brought in hundreds of holiday gifts for kids who would otherwise have done without.

Everett and Jones has been a must-eat for fans of barbecue for decades, and even appeared in a Raiders-focused episode of the HBO football-themed show “Ballers,” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Location scouts for the show were “looking for authentic places … in the Bay Area,” Shamar said. Everett and Jones was a natural pick, and Mary and a few friends ended up behind the counter in a 2017 episode that focused on the Raiders.

Everett and Jones was founded in Oakland in 1973 by King and Everett’s mother, Dorothy Turner Everett, aka the “Queen of Modern Day Barbecue,” who began her business as a single mother raising nine kids on welfare. “I guess opening a restaurant was her way of never having to worry about her kids having food,” Mary said of her mom in a 2012 interview.

“A couple friends from Larry’s Meats helped my grandma out,” Shamar said. “They allowed her to have a credit to help her to start the business and over 40 years later, we’re still here and I’m third generation.”

Mary’s family plans to keep on serving up great barbecue at the restaurant on San Pablo. “We’re going to keep that legacy going and keep that same authentic food, keep that same taste,” Shamar said. “I’m born and raised in this so this is part of me. I’m not going anywhere.” 

Mary Everett is survived by sisters, Annie Jones, Hellen Bellamy, and Shirley Everett Dicko; brother, George Allen Everett; son Shamar Cotton, his wife, Tibletse Cotton, and their three children, Ava, 9, Reaia, 7, and Delina, 4; son Terrell Cotton and daughter Rolanda Cook. A private memorial is planned. Cards and toys for the toy drive are welcome at the restaurant: 1955 San Pablo Ave. (at University Avenue), Berkeley.

Elise Proulx graduated from UC Berkeley in 1991. After living elsewhere for a few decades, she returned to Berkeley in 2009 and hopes she never leaves.