Her brightly colored nails match her full-of-life personality, and her smile instantly lights up the room.
Barbara Jagnow, 87, owner of Otto’s Sea Grill and a Freeport native, was honored as “Business Owner of the Year” at the Freeport Chamber of Commerce Dinner-Dance on April 12.
Jagnow said the restaurant’s ambiance and its clam bar have helped keep it going for many years.
The restaurant will celebrate its 90th anniversary this year. Jagnow said she was practically born at the restaurant. Her mother was responsible for the cooking and her father waited tables and took care of the bar. Jagnow also worked in her family’s restaurant, and eventually took over from her parents with her husband and daughter. She reminisced about village life and said she was “always on the go.”
“Everybody I knew was good,” said Jagnow, describing Freeporters. “Whether they were sailors, working on the boats or unpacking fish, they were all good people.”
Jagnow said she used to row on a 16-foot boat with seven other girls and a male coxswain on a rowing team. They gathered at 10 a.m. each morning. She was also a part of canoe races every year, even racing in the Hudson River in New York City.
“We all rode together, met in the mornings, and then afterwards,” she said. “We’d have a soda or beer, depending on the time of day. It was fun times”.
She was the first person in her family to attend college. She studied business at then Bryant College, which is now Bryant University, in Providence, R.I. She said she would never forget the professor from whom she learned accounting.
Jagnow said she helped with the Freeport’s pig races, organized festivals, and was a Girl Scout leader when her daughter, Illona, was in the organization. She made sandwiches for the children at Transfiguration Parish School, which her daughter attended, because the school did not have a kitchen.
Jagnow’s nurturing spirit, and her love and care for others, went beyond people. She excitedly described her love for animals and the two dogs and seven cats she owned. Two years ago she rescued a dog that was found wandering around Otto’s Sea Grill. She said the dog was not pleasant to look at because of the abuse it may have encountered.
“We named her Daisy; she was such a true daisy, and she loves to dress up,: said Jagnow, whose eyes brightened while she spoke of her.
Pictures of her and Illona on their recent trip to Disney World on her wall showed that she was indeed still on the go.
With tears in her eyes, she said, “I loved every moment of my life.”