CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. -

Daniel Webster Jr., better known as "Big Dan" took a leap of faith and brought his Alabama roots to the Coachella Valley. He opened Big Mama's Soul Food in Cathedral City in 2006.

The 44-year-old died in his sleep from a heart condition March 16, according to his friend Anna Cirino-Scott, of Cathedral City.

"I walked into his restaurant and we became instant friends," said Scott.

Webster attended Glory to God Church with Scott in Cathedral City. The community is invited to Big Dan's Celebration of Life at the church this Saturday at 12 p.m., at 67399 E. Palm Canyon Drive.

"The celebration is for him to be honored and for people to know who he was and what a true blessing he was," said Scott.

She said he had a big heart, passion for food and serving the less fortunate.

"If they were looking for a place to eat and keep warm, he wanted to give back to people and show God's love. He did that everyday," said Scott.

His restaurant, known for its ribs and tasty Big Dan's BBQ sauce closed its doors last December before he died. Webster planned to relocate to Palm Desert.

"It was a blessing in disguise. He was able to spend time with his family in Alabama," said Scott.
      
She hopes Big Dan's legacy and recipes will live on.