By Gloria Dulan-Wilson

Hello All:

Well, that dreaded day finally arrived - yesterday, May 1, 2017, my beloved Uncle Adolf Dulan made his transition to the realm of Ancestor/Angel.  I must admit, having had an initial fright about his transition a week prior, I was a lot calmer, and more prepared to handle the news.  Last Wednesday,  April 26, when I was told the family was gathering for his last breath, I came very close to being a basket case. But the collective prayers of our many friends, family members, Facebook Friends, and well wishers, gave him some additional time to make his transition.

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Adolf Dulan - My Beloved Uncle - Rests in Power - 

As I'm writing this, it's so surreal that I'm sure I'm have an out of body experience.  And if I, his niece, am devastated, my cousins are even more so - having been with him through the best and worst of  it - seeing one of the most vital, vibrant, visionaries of all time, endure a prolonged illness.  They took up the slack, and maintained all that he had created, while keeping the high watch, and hoping against hope that he would rally and survive this. After all, wasn't he the dad who never failed or wavered - stared down many threats to his life, business, family, dealt with them all handily, and kept progressing - and lifting as he climbed the ladder of success?  He, the Dad who could be in the country one minute talking with his Oklahoma relatives who never left Luther; and the next minute walking the streets of Paris, rubbing elbows with ambassadors, and the uber fasionables!  

That was indeed my Uncle Adolf, and their dad.  Nothing phased him.  So when God the Living Spirit Almighty decided to call him home, none of us really believed it was happening - including Adolf.  Everything he put his hands to was  a success.  He came from the red clay of Luther, Oklahoma, and rose to be a multi-millionaire, a very successful restauranteur, a major player in the Black community of Los Angeles, where he moved after having served a stint in the Korean War.  

No one in our family had done that - gone that far, succeeded on such a major level.  Adolf did! He did it! And he did it with all the charm, grace and humor - and just plain folksiness with which he was raised.  He didn't become a nouveau riche snob - he became a mentor instead.  He didn't distance himself from his family members who hadn't done quite so well - he embraced us all even more.  He had inherited that wonderful storytelling capacity of our paternal grandfather, his dad, Silas Sylvester Dulan - and could spin a tale that would have you on the floor laughing.  But, if you were a threat to his family, he would also have you on the floor trying to find the rest of your teeth - and would continue to smile in the process.  

He graduated from Langston University, Oklahoma - as did all the Dulans - but he was more than just "book smart."  He had what was known as mother-wit - that form of wisdom that goes beyond just everyday common sense - very much like speaking in parables.  Not officious or holier than thou - but with a lot of humor and understanding, as well.

It would be an understatement to say that I absolutely loved my Uncle Adolf.  Whenever he would come to New York to visit, I would drop everything and clear my agenda so that we could hang out. After he and my Aunt Mary finished buying up all the shops,  Adolf and I would head for Sylvia's Restaurant in Harlem.  He had a particular affection for the Woods' family, because they both started from humble beginnings; and they both served food in the family tradition.  He would spend hours talking with Sylvia, taking pictures, walking around the community.  


Later in the evening, we'd all gather for dinner - by All, I meant my cousin Terry, who lived in NYC at the time, his best friend Pierre, my three offspring - Kira, Rais and Adiya and myself, Ardjerie Ayers - and hit Jezebel's (his favorite restaurant at the time) for dinner.  We'd hang there, catching up on old times, taking photos - talking to Alberta (Jezebel's owner); and just relating as a family, the way we did growing up in Oklahoma.   After that, it was party time, and Adolf and I would hit the streets - starting at Perks Fine Cuisine in Harlem, over to Showman's and if we still felt like it, to the Lenox Lounge.  His philosophy was that since he lived in California, and there was a 3-hour difference in time, 3:00 AM in NYC was really only 12:00, so it wasn't that late to him.   He would also sample other Black restaurants, and was an avid collector of cookbooks - especially by Black authors.  There was nothing off the table for Adolf, when it came to the good life and positive people.



I have often bragged that I come from a family of FINE BLACK MEN - well my Uncle Adolf was second in line after my Dad - which meant that both men were super-fine.  Not just in looks, but in manner, temperament, values, attitudes, self esteem - love of family was at the top of their list.  Ingrained in them by my Granddad - Silas Sylvester Dulan, and handed down to his handsome sons - Gregory, Jeff and Terry, and his two beautiful daughters, Danielle and Tiffany.  It was part of the Dulan Family Ethos - and each of his siblings were charged with passing it on to their offspring - so none of us could say we didn't know.  

Adolf was our Uncle - mine, my sister Brenda, brothers Warner Jr., and Sylvester, cousins, Lamont and Sheryl Talton, and, because of the close proximity to us in age, the interpreter to our parents when we hit adolescence.  As always, it appears that Adolf sailed through adolescence without all the hassles and hazards many of us faced later on; but when it hit me in particular, being the first born, he smoothed out the  mis-communications that my smart-mouth would often get me into between myself and my parents and grandparents.  Thank goodness for him!! I was the first born, and the ground breaker - and he had many a time to come and keep my folks from breaking my you-know-what!  No doubt dealing with my madness is what helped him become such a wise and wonderful parent when his own family started to manifest (LOL) - because I was a handful.  Thank goodness for the Civil Rights Era, Clara Luper and being occupied with the sit-ins in OKC, it kept me out of the streets.  Adolf often remarked that I was the only Civil Rights Activist in the family - he was very proud of that.

Most people know my uncle for his wonderful restaurants - the ground breaking  Aunt Kizzy's Back Porch and, later, Dulan's King of Soul Food.  Some will also remember him from Hamburger City, which Arsenio Hall used to talk about so frequently on his late night talk show.  The secret sauce was especially popular Black in the day.  Most don't know that he initially started with trying to run an Orange Julius Franchise in California.  It did not go well because their menu clashed with Black folks taste buds.  Their rigidity is what inspired Adolf to go out on his own and  start his own hamburger stand.  It was an immediate hit because he used freshly ground beef, hand formed, and a special sized hamburger bun, fresh onions, pickles, lettuce and tomatoes.  Not only was it a hit, it was the means by which his kids earned their allowances - everybody had to put their time in at Hamburger City.   However, Adolf did not start out in the restaurant business - he started out  in Day Care, augmented by teaching courses in money management - we now call it financial literacy - in a community program in LA.  The Day Care program was very successful - so we were surprised when he decided to go into the restaurant industry.

But, I guess, in retrospect, it was a natural for him.  He was Mr. Personality.  He had a fantastic smile, could charm you to the point you did not want to leave, had a million stories, and understood human nature.  I remember his business cards in later years always had a picture of him smiling - handsome, engaging brown eyes - silver fox (my Aunt Alene, his oldest sister, hated the fact that he would not colorize his hair the way she did hers.   She felt that others who knew them knew that she was dying hers - after all, how could her baby brothers hair be gray and hers still be dark brown? LOL).


I have so many precious memories of my Uncle - the way his eyes would water up when he started laughing; the fact that he would fall asleep for about an hour after a good meal (a trait of Dulan men, I think - Daddy and Granddaddy would do it too).  The fact that he loved fine cars and jewelry.  The way he would leave a surprise tip for the maids at the hotel under the pillow when they made up the bed so they would give extra service.  The way he would focus in on what you were saying, as if you were the only one on the planet at the time.  

The way he would send a drink to a beautiful woman at a club when we were out, and invite her to join us - of course making sure she knew I was his niece.  He would then proceed to pour on the charm - and tell her that her money was no good for the evening.  He would be his most charming self, and treat her like the queen she was.  I will tell you that would spoil her for anyone who came around and treated her with less respect.  I know it spoiled me - it made it difficult to be around guys who didn't pull out my chair, wine you and dine you; compliment you - I'm sure Tiffany and Dannie have also had the opportunity to be treated like royalty by their Dad. It's so special.  It's not fake; not trying to catch - it's just that wonderful feeling that you get when a gentleman focuses on you as a lady.  I remember trying to get him to write a book, or an instruction manual so we could distribute it to the guys.  Of course, no dice.

Adolf, like most of the Dulan family of his line, was born and raised in Luther, Oklahoma.  The youngest of four kids, he grew up on an 87 acre red dirt farm, owned by my Granddaddy, Silas Dulan and my Grandmom, Zady Dulan.  Everybody had chores, from milking cows, to harvesting the watermelons, picking the corn, pitching the hay, pulling eggs, spreading the manure, you name it, he did it.  He hunted rattle snakes with granddad, helped bring water up  from the well; clean out the outhouse, chop wood for the pot belly stove and for the kitchen.  When everybody else had grown up and gone, it was all on him to help around the farm - from canning and putting up preserves, to getting the dairy products ready for delivery.  He did it all. From the son of a dairy farmer to a mogul in the realm of restaurants.  What a journey.

He grew up in an extended family of aunts and uncles who were also being raised by my grandfather - each of them attended Langston University, put through by my Grandad, which formed the basis of another family standard "Education is a non-negotiable item.  Adolf and all the Dulan family was expected to do well in school, and attend and complete college.  There were no ifs ands or buts about it.  Our family was a stickler for appropriate pronunciation and enunciation of words - and poor grammar would get you yelled at.   The only time you heard him using an Oklahoma drawl was if he was joking or making fun of something.  It was not allowed.  But the wonderful thing about Adolf was that he was both academically and street smart.  He could roll with the best of them, and then hold forth on any subject from a podium without notes.  


Adolf was always trying to lift the Black community - not by activism, but by his contributions and participation in the many programs and activities that occurred throughout Los Angeles.  Whether it was food, money, speaking at, or hosting an event, he did his part to help.  He kept abreast of the issues and problems concerning Black people, and, when he became "rich and famous" preferred to remain in his own Black community than to distance himself in some opulent, isolated neighborhood where you could count the number of African Americans on one hand.  And, while he may have been the one to pioneer a concept, he also knew you couldn't get very far if you tried to go it alone.  For that reason he started the Millionaire Men's Club of California.  Now that did not mean everybody was a millionaire who belonged to the club; but it did mean that they were aspiring to be, and that they were doing business with each other on an ethical and cooperative basis.    He was also a member of Recycling Black Dollars - an organization that made it their business to spend the money in the Black community first.   He had the admiration of fellow businessmen and women, elected officials, political figures, peers - but most of all, we, his family were so proud of him. 

My Mom, Ruby Love, his sister-in-law, loved him to no end.  During his bachelor days, while at Langston University, Adolf used to hang out in Oklahoma City with his friends; and, instead of going back to dorm after partying and drinking illegal booze (Oklahoma was a "dry" state), he would crash on the living room sofa.  He would ease in about dawn, and sleep til noon, have breakfast - and praise Mother on her biscuits and grits; joke around with Daddy, tease us kids.  We would tip around him while he was sleeping, and periodically go over and say, "Adolf, are you awake yet?"  and he would say, "Not yet," and roll over for another round of z's.  But when he finally woke up, we would be jumping all over him, happy to see him, hugging and running around him!   Me, I would be doing hand stands, turning flips, and showing off:  "Adolf! Adolf! look what I can do!!  Look what I can do!!"  Swinging upside down on the backyard gym set.   "Hey Adolf! Look at me!"  

I think I've spent my whole life trying to impress my favorite Uncle - some days I did; some days I didn't.  But he always impressed me with his heart, his graciousness, his sagacity, his love of life and people, his pride of family and love and support of his kids.  And I hope as I write this, the love we all feel for him is coming through to him, even as he is charming the heck out of them in the Realm of the Ancestor Angels.  

Farewell to you, A.D. 

Thanks so much for showing us how to live life beautifully and fully.

Please say hello to Mom and Daddy, Granddaddy and Grandmom, Alene, Zethel, Sheryl, Major and all the rest of the Dulan Clan.

Lovingly from your Number One Niece

Gloria Jeanne 

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