One of Muhammad Ali's favorite places to relax in the East Valley was at the Schnepf's Country Store and Bakery, located inside Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek.
The friendship started years ago, when owner Carrie Schnepf designed a corn maze likeness of Ali. After having seen his pictures in magazines, posters, and billboards, a family member said Ali was eager to see his image in a corn maze. He was very impressed and touched when he flew over the corn maze, then visited the farm for the first time.
"He's been coming back for peaches ever since," said McCall Schnepf, the daughter of Carrie Schnepf.
McCall and her brother Grayson met Ali when they were little kids.
"He was always the sweetest person. He didn't even seem like a famous person. He was always so excited to be at the farm. Excited to meet us, which is crazy. Muhammad Ali was excited to meet us," said Schnepf.
Bakery manager Tiffany Turley served him numerous times when he showed up.
"If we had peach pie, it was definitely peach pie," said Turley.
She described Ali as a sweetheart, a "big ol' teddy bear" and a "sweet gentle giant."
Ali, who died Friday night at a Scottsdale hospital , had his favorite table outside on the patio. Turley had fond memories of seeing his family out there relaxing and just taking in the atmosphere at the farm.
Grayson McCall, the owner's son, said Ali left a very strong impression on him. He remembered riding the train around the farm property with Ali, and said it was one of Ali's favorite things to do.
As they watched his health decline over the years, Ali may not have been able to say much, but both Turley and the Schnepf's said his presence was larger than life. He could communicate through his gestures and a look.
"Someone said to me, you don't have to talk, but you can feel words coming right through," said Grayson Schnepf.
The three time heavyweight boxing champion, humanitarian, United Nations Ambassador of peace, husband and father, will best be remembered for his humility, kindness, and his ability to put others around him at ease.
In a tweet sent after Ali's death, a family member wrote that his heart kept beating even thirty minutes after he died. He was a fighter until the very end.
"He's a machine man, just able to keep going for so long, he's been a machine since day one," said Grayson Schnepf.