Community grieves the loss of John Marsh, owner of the Dad's Place diner, who died Sunday while jogging

HOLLY SCHOLZ - John Marsh was widely-known as the chef at Dad's Place, a popular local restaurant.

The lights were off and the door was locked during what normally would have been the bustling lunch hour.

Next to a bouquet of flowers, a sign on the door says they will be closed for a while because of a tragedy in the family.

John Marsh, the Dad of Dad's Place, is gone.

Marsh collapsed Sunday morning while out for his morning jog. They say it may have been a heart attack that took the 66-year-old Prineville businessman so suddenly.

Now, friends aren't sure what Marsh's wife, Shelly, will do with the popular Dad's Place diner on Main Street that she helped run.

"It was John's deal," says long-time friend and Dad's Place regular Dean Davis. "It's not going to be the same without John. HOLLY SCHOLZ - After John Marsh passed away, a sign was placed on the front door of the eatery, notifying customers they would be closed for an indefinite period of time.He showed up at 4:30, 5 in the morning to start his soups and pies and everything. It's going to be hard to duplicate."

Marsh was born in Maine, moved to California, and went to high school in Bend before settling in Prineville in 1974. He ran Grizzly Bear Pizza and Pietro's Pizza in Prineville for many years before venturing out on his own and buying Debbie's, a diner on Main Street, in October 1990.

He changed the name to Dad's Place. The inspiration came from a "Dad's Place" street sign that one of his sons bought as a Christmas present in grade school.

His wife became head waitress in 1999 after she left her job at American Pine Products, and the couple continued to run the successful diner, serving breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Saturday.

Jim Lane, owner of Prineville Men's Wear, has been a neighbor on Main Street for nearly 30 years and says Marsh was active with his family, including his sons Aaron and J.P., who are in their 30s, and six grandchildren.

"He was very blunt but a nice man," Lane says. "He will be missed in the community."

Cooking pancakes and burgers wasn't all Marsh was known for around town.

Next door at Prineville Athletic Club, co-owner Lori Goodman said Monday was a tearful day at the PAC.

"Not just with me, but everybody that comes in," she said. "It's truly really sad. I mean really sad. It has touched so many people."

Marsh was member of the PAC for as long as Goodman can remember.

"He was such a joy," she said. "This club today has been the saddest place to be because he made sure he was good to everybody, and that's the kind of person he was. He always said hello, greeted everybody. There are not enough nice words to describe him … Everybody felt like his best friend."

Goodman has known Marsh for decades — she first met him when he worked at Grizzly Bear Pizza. They became business neighbors 26 years ago, and she saw him every day, whether he was working out at the PAC or passing by after closing up shop in the afternoon.

"They would always stop in after work and say hi, or whether he was in here working out, I talked to John every day," Goodman said tearfully. "The beauty of living in a small town is that everybody loves you. And everybody loved John."

A faithful gym member, Marsh was also an excellent bike rider and jogger, Goodman says.

"He liked to run races. He was really, really good at it."

Whether it was the Paddy Pint, the Splash-n-Dash, the Dam Run, or Dad's Place's own Run Like a Turkey 5K, Marsh was there.

They supported local athletes and youth organizations and always donated the proceeds from their Thanksgiving 5K race to local groups.

"He'll be missed for sure," his friend Davis says. "I think he probably underestimated what a big part of the community he was."

Davis got to know Marsh at Dad's Place, where he goes to try out the daily lunch special and sit at the "Farmer's Table" in the corner.

"There was a horseshoers group there every morning, too, but the farmers group was usually for lunch," Davis says. "We were definitely a bunch of regulars."

The "Breakfast Nazi" served the typical hearty breakfast for the hard-working men and traditional diner fare for lunch — burgers and fries.

Davis recalls the Neptune, a bacon cheeseburger, and Marsh's own CLT — corned beef, lettuce and tomato — an idea that originated from the "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" show.

Aside from cooking and jogging, Marsh also loved to chukar hunt and often brought along his dogs and joined Davis, his bird-hunting buddy.

"It didn't matter if he got any birds or not. Every hunt was a good one. He just liked doing it," Davis says. "Most bird hunters, you need to get birds or it's not a good hunt, but John didn't care."

Davis recalled with a chuckle the many times he and Marsh would be walking along for hours and when they'd get to the first cubby of chukar, Marsh would forget to put a shell in his gun and would miss a shot.

"He'd just laugh. I mean it irritated him, but he'd just laugh," Davis chuckled. "He always had a good attitude, however things were going. He kinda taught me that, like in hunting, it's not always what you get but how much fun you have."

Editor's note: There will be an Open House Memorial from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 11 at Dad's Place, 229 N. Main St., in Prineville.

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