Goodbye Buddy: Kenneth Hyde’s lasting impact on Alabaster

Published 5:18 pm Monday, January 22, 2024

By NOAH WORTHAM | Managing Editor

ALABASTER – As you walk through the doors of Buddy’s BBQ, Kenneth “Buddy” Hyde welcomes you in and greets you by name.

“Somehow he could do that,” said Danny Hyde, Kenneth’s son. “He would remember their names or somebody would come in and he would tell me what they were going to order before they ordered it.”

After placing your order, Kenneth enters in the information for your ticket.

“That’ll be $49.80,” he says jokingly before continuing to tell you the actual amount.

After walking out the door with a full stomach and a smile on your face, there is only one thing left on your mind, “I am definitely going back.”

Kenneth Hyde, known colloquially as just “Buddy,” died peacefully on Tuesday, Dec. 12 leaving behind a lasting impact on his family, customers and local community.

A loving father, community servant and barbecue expert—Kenneth always made it his mission to bring others together. Perhaps the best way he ever found to do so was through opening his own restaurant, Buddy’s BBQ.

A family business

Kenneth had a lifelong passion for cooking, which stayed with him even during his service throughout the Vietnam War and his service in the United States Air Force. It was a passion that he happily inherited from his mother.

“His mother, she was such a good cook,” Danny said. “They were from Pea Ridge, Alabama and she could cook a biscuit, collard green and just Southern cooking all day long.”

After spending time working at South Central Bell and helping out with a short-lived restaurant with his mother, Kenneth bought Tex Smith BBQ in 1977 before eventually changing the name of the restaurant to match his own colloquial nickname—creating Buddy’s BBQ.

Kenneth would go on to serve Alabaster and the surrounding community as it continued to grow into the largest city in Shelby County.

That ongoing service left a continuing impact on the hearts of not only his family, but a great many in the community, who still feel his impact and who are all finding it hard to imagine a world without him at the counter.

“He (did) have a very loyal customer base,” said Missy Hyde, Kenneth’s daughter. “He really enjoyed getting to know every one of his customers and talking to them.”

According to Missy, when Kenneth was interacting with a new customer he would tell them “You’ll be back” and the customers would always come back.

Kenneth loved interacting with the restaurant’s regulars and even remembered their names. He would joke with them and exchange pleasantries.

“He liked to think (of) his customers as part of the family,” Danny said.

After enjoying Kenneth’s kind hospitality, they could enjoy the variety of flavor’s the business has to offer.

“And some things he created, he didn’t write these recipes down,” Danny said. “off the wall stuff like his spaghetti sauce that he hardly ever makes, but there’s no way I could duplicate that spaghetti sauce. It was the best spaghetti sauce and he (only) made it a few times. He was just a really good cook.”

A positive impact

A younger Kenneth was at home with his family when he heard a loud explosion outside. Someone had just crashed their vehicle on Highway 17. Kenneth sprung into action and immediately darted out of the house to the scene of a burning car.

“He literally pulled somebody out of that burning car (and) saved their life,” Danny said. “He was the first one there.”

From then on, Kenneth had a beeper and served as a volunteer firefighter to assist others in his community because that was just the kind of man he was.

“He’s always wanting to help people in need,” Missy said.

Kenneth not only helped feed his local community but also worked to serve them in other capacities as well.

“He always took pride in helping and serving the community,” Missy said.

One way in which Kenneth made himself available was by donating hot dog sauce for “buddy dogs” during Thompson High School’s football games.

“He still has customers that come in and ask for that hot dog sauce because they always enjoyed it growing up,” Missy said.

Kenneth was willing to help anyone who came into his business, even if they needed more than a good meal.

“If they walked in and said (they) needed anything, he would happily do that to help them, no matter what they needed or asked him for,” Missy said. “He’s helped people that didn’t have a place to live. He’d let them come live with him for months or years at a time because they didn’t have a place to live. So, he would do anything to help anybody.”

To those around him, Kenneth always carried a remarkably positive attitude.

“He always said if there was nothing he could do about it, he wasn’t going to worry about it,” Missy said.

Focused on family

Alongside all his other responsibilities and passions, Kenneth put effort into family.

“He was focused on us growing up—his family,” Danny said.

One thing Kenneth was always particular about was his involvement in ensuring that the family stayed in contact and always held a family reunion.

“He was very persistent every year about when the family reunion was going to be and that we we’re going to be there,” Danny said. “If we couldn’t be (there), he wanted to know the reason why we couldn’t be (and) it had to be a good reason.”

Kenneth made sure to spend quality time with his children and family.

“We went on several adventures together,” Danny said. “He was from Pea Ridge, Alabama where they had access to the country, and he knew the country down there like the back of his hand.”

Kenneth was also no stranger to finding new and exciting ways to celebrate the occasion.

“He used to always have New Year’s Eve parties for us and those were always a good time for the family,” Danny said. “He would get a lot of fireworks, not just a few firecrackers, he’d have a show down there at his house at Pea Ridge and he’d cook a feast.”

A father’s legacy

On Dec. 12, Kenneth died at the age of 80, surrounded by his family and left an ongoing legacy of kindness and service in his stead.

On Wednesday, Dec. 13, Missy shared the news on Facebook and local residents joined together to express their condolences and discussed the kind of man he was.

Danny and Missy said they haven’t run into one person from Alabaster who didn’t know him or express how great a man he was.

Danny shared that he always thought his dad would sell the business and retire but he never did.

“He (Kenneth) said, ‘If I close or sell this place, what are my customers going to do for lunch,’” Missy said. “That’s what he told me. ‘They depend on me for their lunch every day—they’d have nowhere to go.’”

Although he’s no longer personally stoking the coals or tending a grill, his customers are continuing to be fed by his family at Buddy’s BBQ as they keep the spirit of Buddy’s passion and talent alive.