TROY, Ill. – The murder of longtime Troy, Illinois, resident Norma Caraker has hit customers of the Troy Family Restaurant especially hard. She was a waitress there and was known for her generosity.

“It breaks my heart,” said Julie Atwell, a former customer.

Caraker would set one day aside each year to donate her tips from that day to Partners for Pets, an animal rescue organization. Friends say she raised more than $1,000 each year.

On Thursday, Neil Howard was charged with her murder. Friends say Howard is Caraker’s son. The charging documents say that he strangled her. He is under arrest and his bail is set at $3 million.

Longtime friends are still having a difficult time coming to terms with her loss. Caraker was the widow of former Mayor Tom Caraker and a mother and grandmother.

“Norma is going to be so missed in that family, said Dawn Mushill, president and CEO of the Troy, St. Jacob, Maryville, Marine Chamber of Commerce. She said Caraker had a heart of gold and always brought a smile to the customers she greeted.

Mushill said Caraker treated customers more like friends and never forgot an order. She expects the community will rally behind Caraker’s family and show them support.

“She made her job look easy and it’s not,” Mushill said.

As of Thursday, family members were still making funeral arrangements. Investigators have not released any details about a possible motive for the crime.