Jon Sparhawk Memorial Scholarship & Community Fund
The organizers of Ohio Brew Week established the Jon Sparhawk Memorial Scholarship & Community Fund in conjunction with the Sparhawk Family and their businesses, the Oak Room and Toscano’s. The Fund was established to honor Jon Sparhawk, the originator of Ohio Brew Week. Sparhawk passed away in June 2007, just as the 2nd Ohio Brew Week was getting underway.
Brew Week organizers created the OBW Cooking Competition, held during the annual Brew Week, the third week in July, as a way to sustain and add to the Memorial Fund. Local individuals added to the fund to put on the cooking competition and raise money for the fund as well: Contributors included: Dennis Irwin, Bob Handley, Jim Fuller, Kris Cornwell, Dr. and Mrs. Marazon and GFS Foods and U.S. Foodservices also donated product for the competition. Martha and Robert Besuden of Michigan also added to the fund.
The fund will be managed by Sparhawk family members, and an advisory board of close friends of Jon’s. It is anticipated that a scholarship to an Athens High School senior will be given every year, and that some of the fund will be used for community beautification projects.
For more information on contributing to the fund, please call Melody Sands, 740-591-8707, or Jamie Sparhawk, 740-593-8386. Or, mail contributions to:
Jon Sparhawk Memorial Fund
c/o 9950 St. Rt. 682
Athens, OH 45701.
Include your name, address, phone number and email, so we can keep you informed of scholarship recipients and community projects undertaken in Jon’s memory.
From the Other Side of the Desk: A good friend, a good man, and he had a way about him
By Jon Peters
Athens NEWS Columnist
Thursday, June 7th, 2007
Well, I hadn't planned to write this week, but I also hadn't planned for one of my friends to pass away last weekend.
So, here I sit, staring at a blank screen, searching for small truths and trying to wrestle words to paper. Maybe I should have listened: A fellow writer once told me that it's impossible to characterize someone's life in a few hundred words, that it's impossible to do it fairly.
I remember agreeing at the time, tipping my pen to the master, so to speak. It is impossible. But now, at the intersection of practice and principle, I'm happy to abandon that principle. I owe my best effort to my late friend, no matter how miserably I may fail, no matter how short I may fall.
He was chatty.
He was tireless.
He was generous.
He was stubborn.
He was Jon Sparhawk, 57.
He died unexpectedly Saturday morning, survived by four children and his wife, Jean. Most widely known as the owner of Toscano's and the Oak Room Bar and Grill, located on Station Street in Athens, Jon had a way about him.
Especially when he worked the room at his restaurants.
"She's much prettier than the girl you brought in the other day," he used to tell me, grinning at my then-girlfriend, knowing full well that we'd been dating for two years.
My best line of defense?
"That's weird, because I don't remember having another girl with me. You know, though, I do remember Ohio State losing the other day. You catch the game?"
End of discussion.
Dad says I knew Jon my whole life, ever since he served Mom her first non-hospital meal after having me. Obviously, I don't remember. I'll take Dad's word for it. What I do remember, and what means most to me, is how that man treated me in high school and in college.
He followed my hockey career, familiarized himself with my stats from newspaper reports, and caught as many games as his schedule would permit. Mind you, Jon wasn't much of a hockey fan. He preferred (any day of the week) to devote his time and talents to baseball or football, both spectating and coaching. In fact, I'm pretty sure he once told me that a hockey puck was a waste of good rubber, otherwise available to make catcher pads.
Meanwhile, he maintained a frenetic schedule, with family activities, board meetings, charity events and his restaurants taking center stage, where no work was too menial or too pedestrian. He coached. He coordinated. He cleaned. He cooked. He catered. And he did so with an unflagging work ethic.
Last year, Jon asked me to develop for him a media strategy that would drive more Web traffic to Dine Across America, an Internet alliance he founded to promote independent restaurants across the country.
"Come in tomorrow morning, to the Oak Room," he says. "We'll work out the details."
"Tomorrow morning...what time?" I respond.
"I'll be getting there around 7:30 a.m. How 'bout you meet me then?"
"I haven't gotten up before 8 a.m. since high school," I say, inflecting an edge of incredulity. "And my earliest class is at noon."
"Great, see you at 7:30 a.m."
(Yes, he was stubborn.)
At any rate, the next morning, disheveled and disoriented, resembling Bill Murray in "Caddyshack," I found myself slumped across an Oak Room barstool, pouring over marketing stuff with Jon. At 7:30 a.m.
As I said, he had a way about him.
We wrapped up business within the hour, and our conversation moved from marketing to politics, from politics to journalism. He mentioned that commentators (guys like me) should steer clear of straight-news reporting and that journalism should concern itself with news of substance rather than substance matter, i.e., sensationalistic pabulum.
"Want a beer?" he asks, filling his own glass with Pepsi.
Grinning, I decline and ask for water, certain that beer at 9 a.m. would cut tracks straight to Alcoholics Anonymous.
Looking back, I realize that I found in Jon a good friend who talked and who listened. I found in Jon a good man who cared. He had a way about him.
He was chatty.
He was tireless.
He was generous.
He was stubborn.
He was Jon Sparhawk, 57.
Editor's note: Peters can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read in tribute at his funeral
June 5, 2007
How do we say goodbye to someone like Jon Sparhawk? We can't.
Jon would be thrilled to see this many people at the Oak Room or Toscano' s. Instead of being overwhelmed, he'd be right around to take your drink orders. Then he'd check back later to see if your food is okay.
We're here today to celebrate this magnanimous person, Jon Sparhawk. Times like these words are never enough. But, our simple language will have to suffice to describe this fabulous, generous and big-hearted man.
Jon loved Athens and was always dreaming of ways to make it a better place— for all of us and for visitors. (While he might growl at me quoting a Democrat in his tribute) This quote from Robert F. Kennedy, which many of you have heard, reminds me of Jon: "Some men see things as they are, and ask why? Other dreams things that never were, and ask why not?"
Jon would ask: "Why the hell aren't we doing it?" He'd immediately roll up his sleeves, light a cigarette, and have the project underway and planned five years into the future before his second cigarette went out.
Jon was a visionary; his brain moved at lightning speed. But he was more than just a head-in-the-sky kind of dreamer. He put energy and action behind his ideas. Jon Sparhawk had courage to follow his heart and make things happen in Athens.
As Mark Twain wrote:"Really great people make you feel that you, too, can become great."
Jon made others believe in themselves. Jon transformed lives in this community: helping his workers, students, local sports groups and non-profit organizations. He rarely turned anyone down who asked for a donation. And he gave generously because he thought it was the right thing to do as an involved community member.
One of Jon' s biggest passions and concerns was convincing everyone in the area to support small, locally-owned independent businesses. He was one of the hardest working men in this community building his independent restaurants and other businesses, so he could give back in ways the franchises don't and won't. Jon put the jerseys on the baseball teams. Jon made sure kids had proper equipment; Jon helped students stay in college. One way you can remember and honor Jon is to consider carefully where you dine and shop, and always try to support the local, independents first. Jon will smile down from heaven.
Jon's enthusiasm for Athens inspired many; his excitement was like inspiration, motivation with a pinch of creativity. Jon was one of the originators of the idea for Ohio Brew Week, which I had the privilege of working w/him on last year. It was an incredible amount of work and we never slowed down the whole week; but the event was successful and brought lots of people into town. Throughout that planning time and the week, I got to know Jon better, and saw first-hand, how he treated his staff, customers and everyone who came into his restaurants. He treated us like part of his wonderful family; he adopted us. This year's Brew Week will be dedicated to Jon' s memory.
Jon was a unique character, salty, crusty sometimes, irascible and opinionated, but he always treated you w/respect and kindness. He was quite chivalrous and a true gentleman. I watched in awe that Jon would hold Jeannie' s hand in public and kiss her before they parted in such a kind, tender way that I knew how deeply he loved his wife and kids. He' d hug Jamie and Julie after a very long day of work, and talked proudly of Josh and Joey' s baseball accomplishments and their careers. He was so proud of each of you.
Jon dedicated his life to helping others. He may be gone in the physical sense, but Jon has left us a legacy of goodness. Jon was the backbone of this town, setting the standard for how to be a generous, kind businessperson. He was the King of Hospitality. He did so much. It will take each and every one of us to pick up where Jon left off and continue his community projects. We are richer people and blessed for having known Jon.
Now and forever, he is a part of us. He lit up our world. Let's carry on his torch. --Melody Sands
Read in tribute at his funeral
Jon was a man of many passions. He was passionate in his love for his family and his faith. He was also very passionate about politics and business. He was loyal to his local party and a supporter of the Ohio University College Republican Club.
Jon liked to interact with young people. As a businessman Jon was very supportive of youth athletic programs. He also was very proud of the fact that over the years he had given jobs to literally hundreds of college students. He felt if students developed a good work ethic, it would create good character.
Jon was a passionate advocate for small businesses. As a member of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors he was a champion for small businesses. Many of his ideas or suggestions have become Chamber policy. He was the recipient of the Chamber's Small Business of the Year in 2004. He urged others to get involved in business associations. He encouraged younger business owners to take a stand, to speak up. If they had doubts about their business, Jon offered encouragement. He often said you can do it, stick with it, don't give up. Many owners, especially in the restaurant business, considered him a father figure. He was always there to give advice, sometimes whether they asked for it or not. Josh Thomas of Brennen's Coffee Café and Deli said you could always ask Jon for help. Jon had been through every imaginable situation and was very willing to share his experience.
Jon was innovative, a creator and an idea person. He was one of the organizers of the Athens Independent Restaurant Association. He was the founder of the Ohio Brew Week Festival. After years of complaining about computers and the Internet Jon embraced both with a passion. He utilized the Internet to create a lunch lottery to promote his restaurants and developed an email list of over 4,000 customers. Jon started a relationship with local artists to display their art in his restaurants. One area artist told me how appreciative she was that Jon gave her an opportunity to show her paintings to the public. Jon created a shuttle service between his restaurants and Ohio University Performing Arts Presentations and productions at Arts West. Customers could go out to dinner, take in a play or concert and never have to move their cars.
Jon was a supporter of buying local from area farmers long before this became a current trend As his customer demographics changed over the years Jon adapted again. He kept the Oak Room concept but added a sports bar & grill to appeal to new younger customers. Recently he expanded again creating a game room with pool tables and video games. This again became a popular gathering spot for area students.
One of Jon's numerous ideas he involved me in was quite unique. He was a strong supporter of the Chamber City/County map and liked to give them out to his customers. Jon asked me if he could have a laminated map so he could mount it in a display. I said sure. One day Jon called and said hey I have your map up you ought to come over and see it. So I hurried over to the Oak Room and walked in and looked around but didn't see the display. Jon said follow me I have it in a place of honor. He proceed to show me the map and a mounted display holder full of maps hanging over the urinal in the men's restroom. When I expressed my surprise and concern that this might not be the best idea for a chamber display Jon said" Trust me this is a great idea" and though he used other words that I not sure would be appropriate to repeat here today he basically said people would always need to visit this room and couldn't help but look at the map. Despite my doubts within a few months the Oak Room Men's Restroom display was the fourth highest outlet in Athens County in volume of dispensing maps, nearly 500 maps in three months time.
Jon Sparhawk was a loving husband and father, a business leader, a community advocate and friend to countless people who including myself will miss him dearly.
Membership Service Coordinator
Athens Area Chamber of Commerce