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Culinary scholarship honors man's memory

May 07, 2007|by MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN - Nearly four years ago, when Eve Janni received that phone call that every parent dreads, she thought that she would never be able to get over the death of her only son, Michael "Gabe" Spurlock.

She hasn't ... nor will she or her family.

But Janni and Gabe's father, Michael E. Spurlock, bonded with other family members and friends to take a positive step after their tragedy - a culinary arts scholarship fund in Gabe's memory.

Gabe died in an automobile accident in Delaware in September 2003. He was 25.

While his family was sitting in the funeral home writing Gabe's obituary, the idea came to them to establish a scholarship in Gabe's name.

"We were trying to make something good from this," Janni said.

After graduating from North Hagerstown High School in 1996, Gabe told his mother he wanted to go to the beach, find a place to live and get a job cooking.

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Janni said she told him how difficult all of those things would be, but amazingly Gabe soon was working at Phillips seafood restaurant and living in Ocean City, Md.

"He loved it so much," Janni said. "When he came home, I insisted he get an education in culinary arts."

They checked into some places and decided the Baltimore International Culinary College would be best, she said. After six quarters there, Gabe earned an associate degree in culinary arts with the help of a small scholarship.

"Gabe went to Ireland for one quarter," Janni said. "While he was there, he was offered a job. He was that good."

Though he wasn't much on baking, Gabe excelled at sauces, Janni said. He also came up with unique ideas for dishes all his own.

While he was in culinary school, Gabe worked at Clarion Hotel and Conference Center and Fountain Head Country Club, both in Hagerstown.

At the time of his death, Gabe was executive chef at Fat Tuna Grill in Millville, Del. There is a plaque honoring Gabe on the wall at that restaurant, where some items on the menu bear his name.

Money started coming in soon after the obituary ran - an indication of how many people Gabe touched in his short life, Janni said.

"It really gives you something to hold onto," she said. "When bad things happen, you do what Gabe would have wanted."

To date, $5,743 has been raised. Money came from friends, family, colleagues and places where Gabe worked.

Contributions also came in from the M&T Bank where Janni is a vice president.

Last summer, Janni broke her ankle and was laid up for several months. She spent that time working on the application forms for the scholarship money.

"There were four applicants," Janni said. Each submitted a picture and detailed description of why they needed the scholarship money and what they planned to do with it.

Three of those applicants received $500 each, while the fourth got the rest, Janni said.

"If I did nothing else, I gave that applicant the way to do what he wanted to do ... like Gabe wanted to," Janni said.

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