BARBERTON: Joe Fazek’s friends say that he loved the community so much, if he nicked a finger, it would bleed Barberton purple.
As chief executive officer for the Barberton South Summit Chamber of Commerce and owner of Magic City Lanes in the lower level of the Magic City Plaza for 35 years, Mr. Fazek dedicated decades of his life to convincing others that the town where he was born and raised was a great place to build a life and a business.
“He was a great, great advocate for business. He made it his duty to find out what was your forte and helped you develop. He went out of his way to engage new business owners and help them,” said Larry Okolish, who served alongside Mr. Fazek in the chamber of commerce and counted him as a friend for 35 years.
Joseph M. Fazek, 67, died Friday at the Cleveland Clinic, where he was taken by helicopter after experiencing chest pains Dec. 7. Many people did not realize he had Marfan syndrome, an inherited disease that claimed the life of his oldest son, Joseph, in 1995.
After losing consciousness Dec. 9, Mr. Fazek remained unresponsive until Thursday night, when he awoke briefly and said goodbye to his family, including his wife of nine years, Bonnie, and sons, Jay and Jeff.
“He may have barely awakened for a few minutes before he died. We couldn’t talk to him for 28 days and then he wakes up,” Jay Fazek said.
Mr. Fazek served as part-time CEO of the Barberton South Summit Chamber of Commerce for many years before taking on the job full time about five years ago and selling the bowling center that had been his life’s work.
Jay Fazek, 32, reminisced Tuesday about spending Sundays at the center during family league play.
“We would go the center and bowl, get something to eat, then watch the Browns lose,” he said.
Although Mr. Fazek loved the friends he made at the bowling center, he wanted something better for his sons, Jay Fazek said.
“He didn’t want us to work at the bowling center. He wanted us to get an education and get real jobs,” he said.
Mr. Fazek, who was never elected to public office, was a rare breed in a town built by labor unions. He ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for the Ward 2 council seat in 2007, then tried for the 45th Ohio House District seat in 2008, losing to Democrat John Otterman. He counted on his experience as a businessman to sway voters. When that didn’t work, Mr. Fazek used his experience to help others create successful businesses in the chamber that has been around as long as Barberton has been a city, Okolish said.
“I think O.C. Barber started [the chamber]. It is 100-plus years old,” said Okolish, who is the former owner of Anderson Graphics.
Each year, the chamber, which holds business development meetings three days a week, would move its meeting to an area high school within the chamber’s footprint, Okolish said. The program, established by Mr. Fazek, was developed to encourage area youths to start their own businesses and give them the opportunity to interact with some of the chamber’s 300 members.
“It was his brainstorm,” Okolish said.
Chamber President Sherry Sanchez, owner of Casa del Ranchero restaurant on Tuscarawas Avenue and director of admissions and marketing at HCR Manor Care in Barberton, said Mr. Fazek was often the first person to introduce himself to the owner of a new business that opened in the area.
“He just lived for that. I don’t know anybody who loved his job more than Joe,” she said.
Calling hours will be 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Campfield-Hickman-Collier Funeral Home, 566 W. Park Ave., Barberton. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Barberton South Summit Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Fund, 503 W. Park Ave., Barberton, OH 44203.
Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or email@example.com.