ANSON, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Beloved entrepreneur and U.S. Army Veteran Doug Browning of Anson recently passed away at the age of 89. He’s best known around town as the founder of the Hatahoe restaurant, but friends and family remember him as husband, father, friend, and a regular crack-up.
Browning started the first Hatahoe in Roby in the early 1960s. He later opened locations in Rotan, Sweetwater, Anson, Haskell, and Hamlin. The Anson location, which opened in 1972, is the last remaining and longest operating of the bunch. His signature humor and, reportedly, top-end burgers have long been a source of comfort and local pride for Anson residents.
“One of the ladies told me the other day, she said, ‘nobody could cook a hamburger like Doug Browning,’ and said we just looked forward to going in there ’cause he always entertained us,” said Doug’s wife, Bobbie Browning.
In 2012, Browning suffered a fall off a ladder while working on the roof of a video rental business he ran in Hamlin. He took a few months to recover in the hospital, after which his son-in-law, Jay Ward took over operation of the Anson restaurant.
“He was a hard worker, but he was also a lot of fun. He liked to joke around, he had a good sense of humor,” Ward attested to his father-in-law’s character.
Long-time customers Vera and Charles Baucum told KTAB/KRBC about that specific brand of humor, recalling a time that Browning took their order a bit too seriously. Mrs. Baucum laughed, “I come in, told him I wanted a hamburger with everything but the kitchen sink, and he brought me out a hamburger bun and an old black shoe and said, ‘here it is!'”
While Browning’s trademark wit was certainly a drawing point for many customers, the Baucums said they would continue to come to Hatahoe for the food and company alone. But maybe not during the high school lunch hour when they said seats are packed with hungry high school seniors.
“They make you feel comfortable, and it kinda makes you wanna come back,” shared Mrs. Baucum.
“Well, I miss Doug, but the bottom line is that we just like it here,” Mr. Baucum commented.
Browning’s passing was a blow to the community, but folks around town have shared a sense of gratitude that the restaurant would remain open under Ward, who has been at the helm for nearly a decade now. Some customers recall Browning’s charitable nature, which was displayed through his yearly firefighter fundraisers, and his tendency to give out food to those in need.
Mrs. Browning told KTAB/KRBC her dear husband passed away peacefully in hospice care after a combination of pneumonia and Alzheimer’s disease. Although he is gone, she said his sense of humor never suffered even at the age of 89.
“We pulled him up and we bumped his head on the bed. He said, ‘Whoop! Y’all knocked my teeth out,’ and he pulled his upper dentures out,” added Bobbie.
Passing away Saturday, November 11, Browning’s funeral service was held at the Hawley Church of Christ on November 15. He was buried at the Hawley Cemetery with military honors.