A long time staple of the family-owned Mac's Deli in downtown Santa Rosa, Eshrat Soltani delighted customers and coworkers alike.
Soltani died Feb. 17 after a nearly six-month battle with lung cancer. She was 81.
"She was a tough, strong-willed woman," said nephew Toraj Soltani.
Eshrat "Eshi" Soltani was born and raised in Tehran, Iran around 1932. Birth records were not maintained in the country at the time leaving her birthdate unclear, her nephew said.
Soltani attended college in Iran, becoming a teacher for the hearing impaired and giving sign language instruction to deaf children.
"She grew up in a country and a time when women weren't allowed to do much," said her nephew. "She was amazingly strong."
She immigrated to the U.S. in 1975, and continued her work in education as a volunteer teacher's aide at Windsor Elementary School.
"She volunteered there while I was attending school," her nephew said.
Soltani became a vital part of the staff at her brother's deli, often arriving at the restaurant before dawn and becoming a key developer of the menu.
Soltani's sister, Azadeh Soltani, remembered an evening when she was closing up shop around 6 p.m. and her sister rushed in. Frazzled, Soltani thought she had slept in until 6 a.m., and missed opening the deli.