On March 23, the American Legion Post 183 Calf Club is hosting a benefit for Jimmy Bockbrader, a familiar face in Wood County and the Pemberville area now living with cancer.
Bockbrader has worked for The Fork’s Restaurant for over 50 years. He has been active in the Sons of American Legion Post 183 and other community events.
Last year Bockbrader, a lifelong resident of Pemberville, was diagnosed with colon cancer. Although he does not have health insurance and is not able to work, he is currently receiving treatment for his cancer.
|Forks bartender Jimmy Bockbrader.
(Press file photo by J. Patrick Eaken)
The benefit will feature great music provided by the Sound of Sorgenbrecher band, 50/50 raffles and several theme basket raffles. Admittance to the event includes chicken and beef sandwiches, chips, pretzels, popcorn and beverages including soda, beer and wine. It begins at 8 p.m. and runs until midnight.
“To ensure that this benefit is as successful as possible, we have been seeking contributions and donations for this important event from businesses and individuals in Wood County and throughout northwestern Ohio,” Bill Kuhlman, of the Jimmy Bockbrader Benefit Community, wrote in an email to The Press.
“Contributions and donations will be used for several theme baskets that will be part of a raffle held that evening. We are hoping that we can draw over 300 people for this benefit. We appreciate any assistance that you can provide. It is a fantastic way to show our support and how much we as a community care about our neighbors. If you have any questions or need any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me,” Kuhlman continued.
Jim’s father, Kenneth, went into partnership as co-owner of The Forks Restaurant in Pemberville with Paul and Marie Wiggins in 1959.
Jim, who turned 60-years-old last November, started working at The Forks when he was 10. His mother worked there, too, making pies and doing the dishes or whatever it took, for more than 10 years. Jim’s brother, Steve, who is seven years older to the day (Nov. 20) than Jim, pulled work detail at The Forks. Their sisters, Nancy and Mary, were waitresses and worked in the kitchen as well.
Back in the day, Jim said it was nothing for him to work 60 to 70 hours a week at the family restaurant. He has tended bar – his dad taught him to make drinks – at The Forks for over 40 years.
Jim said he knows what makes a good bartender – “Good service, I guess” – and he usually gets a feel for what his customers want to talk about, if anything.
“I talk about whatever they want to talk about,” he told The Press in a 2008 interview. “We talk about politics and what else is going on. You just talk to people. I’m a little bit of everything. You have to keep yourself open-minded and just take care of business.
“If you're listening and doing a good job, people see that. I see people walk in and I start making their drinks. I can remember their drinks better than I can remember their names. I know where they sit. You show you care. That's just the way it should be done.”
In 1980, five years after Ken Bockbrader passed away of a heart attack at age 58, the Bockbrader family sold The Forks to George Simon from Toledo.
Simon owned the restaurant for about a year, Jim said, before selling it to Tom Reitzel, who owned the establishment for about eight years. Reitzel sold The Forks to Gordon Bowman, who owned it for about 13 years. Bowman then sold it to the current owners, Larry and Carol Moore.
Larry Moore, who has owned the Forks for over 12 years, calls Jim “Mr. Everything.”
“He’s super dedicated,” Moore said. “It’s amazing how he knows the people when they walk through the door. He sometimes has something fixed and on the table before they sit down. They love him. They say he makes the best drinks they’ve ever had.
“He does anything that we need to have done. He doesn't cook, but he mops floors, does dishes, waits on tables. He’s a great waiter. He helps out servers when they need anything. He keeps everything spotless and clean.”
Bill Kuhlman can be reached at 419-376-6576 or