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Johnnie Clower, 56, dead from stroke


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 22, 2000

Johnnie Clower, the namesake of his family's Dade City barbecue restaurant who was known for tender ribs and an even softer heart, died Saturday morning at Sunbelt Health Care Center in Zephyrhills. He was 56.

Mr. Clower suffered a massive stroke Sept. 11 outside a Dade City grocery store and never recovered.

Things had been looking up for the Clower family since Mr. Clower recently returned to Pasco County after an extended stay at Tampa General Hospital. Saturday's news came as a surprise to many as the family restaurant was closed for business.

"It's a major loss for the community," said Penny Morrill, president of the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Clower has run Johnnie's Bar-B-Q for more than 10 years, catering countless local functions. The restaurant is renowned locally for its Friday night buffet and lines of customers that come with it.

Mr. Clower's face was recognizable to many. Those who knew him said his friendships transcended any barriers.

"His friends are black and white and whatever," his friend, Pete Odom, told the Times after Clower's stroke.

The Dade City Kiwanis and Rotary clubs had been planning a fundraiser to help pay for Mr. Clower's medical expenses, Morrill said.

"He's been the first one out when there's a problem when we need to raise money for someone else," Morrill said. "We were hoping this was going to have a positive outcome."

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