Raleigh, N.C. — The Raleigh restaurant community is mourning the loss of longtime Sola Coffee co-owner Jeanne Luther.
Luther passed away after a years-long battle with ALS. The cafe announced her passing via social media post on Tuesday.
“In God’s providence, my dear wife and momma to Ben, Mara, Sally and many staff over the years at Sola has gone home to be with our Savior,” the post read. “The hard gift of ALS over these last 3.5 years has given us the opportunity to experience a severe and prolonged suffering in a redemptive way. God has used ALS to loosen our grip on the things of this world, move our hearts towards heaven and Jesus, where ‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ (Rev 21:4)”
Visitation is planned for Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. at Mitchell Funeral Home. There will be a funeral and celebration of life on Monday, April 18, at 10:30 a.m. at Providence Church. The cafe will remain closed until April 19.
John and Jeanne Luther opened Sola 10 years ago in the Greystone shopping center off Lead Mine Road. It is a multiple WRAL Voters’ Choice Award winner for best coffee shop.
The couple had previously run a bagel shop in Maryland and wanted to connect with the Raleigh community the same way.
“We saw what food and drink do to people in a community that see each other day after day and you get to know their names and you get to know who they are and their kids and their struggles and victories…that was our passion,” John Luther said in 2020.
The Luthers started out wanting to make Sola a drive-thru coffee shop, so they selected a space that was a former bank. The drive-thru window wasn’t a good fit though for Sola’s craft coffee, which takes a little longer to prepare.
Sola has been a staple in the community with an annual Hot Mini 5K race, which helps raise money to find ALS research.
“This past year had almost 1,000 runners, and we raised about $162,000 for ALS research. It was overwhelming,” said Luther.
In the first five years the race benefited the Wounded Warriors Project, but after co-owner Jeanne Luther was diagnosed with ALS in 2018 the focus shifted.
“The love for us…it’s just been so heartwarming,” Luther said.
It’s been the best three-and-a-half years of our lives and it’s been the hardest to kind of call it joyful sadness,” he said.
Along with Sola, John Luther said the race he and his wife started will endure, just with two fewer feet on the ground and maybe two more wings in the air.
“With a lot of joy and contentment and knowing that she was going to go home and some day I would join her,” he said.
In an interview with WRAL Out and About in March, Luther said when his wife passed, he knows that he has a supportive group of people by his side who will help keep the mission of Sola alive.
“There’s going to come a day when we close because Jeannie died. We’re all going to go to the funeral. We’re going to rejoice in the midst of a ton of tears and then we’re going to open back up — a day later, a week later, who knows what and the whole community is going to come in and they’re not going to know what to say to us and we’re not going to know what to say to them, and it’s going to be another chapter in the history of Sola,” he said.
Patricia Finneran said she’s been coming to Sola for two years. She said John and Jeanne Luther are what made the place so special.
“It;s a tremendous loss but also really a tremendous testament to her life and the way she lived that the community around this place is so strong,” said Finneran.