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Friends, Family Recognize John F. Wolfe's Love And Contributions To Columbus

Esther Honig
Nearly 400 people came to the Southern Theater to honor the life of John F. Wolfe.

Hundreds of people crowded into downtown Columbus's Southern Theatre to share stories and remember John F. Wolfe, the former Columbus Dispatch publisher and philanthropist who died last week. 

Nearly 400 guests filled the theater to remember the life and the accomplishments of Wolfe. The long-time publisher of the Dispatch passed away last week from cancer at the age of 72.

Among those in attendance were former Mayor Michael Coleman, and Ohio Governor John Kasich, who spoke at the service.

Kasich said Wolfe had been a great influence early in his political career.

"As a young man just starting out, against great odds, John was always in my corner," said Kasich

Kasich highlighted the contributions Wolfe made to Columbus. In his career, Wolfe served on the boards of more than 20 business, civic and educational organizations, including Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Kasich described Wolfe as selfless and committed to improving life in Central Ohio.

"John lived a life bigger than himself, plain and simple. There wasn't anything he wasn't willing to do, and it was so seldom that it had anything to do with him," said Kasich.

Wolfe wrote editorials for the Dispatch and believed strongly in the First Amendment principles of open and accountable government. His longtime business partner, Alex Fisher said Wolfe was a business leader who reshaped Columbus neighborhoods with projects like The Greenways and the Scioto Mile.

Credit Esther Honig / WOSU
During his career John F. Wolfe served on the boards of more than 20 organizations including Columbus School for Girls and Nationwide Children's Hospital.

"The Harvard Business School coined the term 'The Columbus Way' to describe the way our city collaborates, but it was John F. who created that standard," said Fisher. 

Fisher said that only Wolfe's love for his family came before his love for Columbus. Wolfe was dedicated to his three daughters and his wife of more than 50 years, Ann Islay Wolfe.

"He loved working with you, traveling together, doing community work together, and playing games together. You may not know it, but John was the best Euchre player in the room,"said Fisher.

According to friends and family, Wolfe avoided the limelight and preferred to work behind the scenes.

His lawyer of 34 years, John Zeinger had the chance to say goodbye to Wolfe on his hospital bed. Zeinger said that as in life, Wolfe remained humble to end.

"I finally got the words out that I had wanted to say... john you're the finest citizen that this city's ever had... and he looked at me and he said you know it will be for others to dec ide whether I've made any contribution."