Therein lies his greatness. He cared, he saw the need, he took on the role and He tirelessly gave his life for us. He was a man.
Jacob “Jake” Walthour, Sr., one of Hudson’s most successful businessmen with a legacy of his service and generosity to his beloved community, died on Monday, December 14, 2020. He was 79 and comforted by his wife, Barbara Jean (Ivery) Walthour and their three children. It was also the occasion of their 57th marital anniversary.
Jacob had a life-long love affair with his wife and business partner Barbara. Together they raised a family, built a business and reputation for putting others ahead of self and placing people before profit. Jacob and Barbara played a valued role in the Black community with their time, voices, and resources. They partnered to be agents of change in the Hudson community through volunteerism and sponsorship and never concerned themselves with their social status. Together the measure of their worth was how they treated people and how people treated each other.
Jacob lived publicly but quietly and wanted to transition to glory peacefully. He appreciated the daily outpouring of affection by those who loved him, and he was especially appreciative of the kind-hearted nurses and doctors at Columbia Memorial Health who left no stone unturned as they helped both he and his beloved Barbara through their recent illnesses.
Born in Waynesboro, Georgia on September 1, 1941 he was the eldest of ten children born to Albert and Willie Mae (Godbee) Walthour. He was twelve when his father died of kidney disease. He attended public school until the seventh grade when his father’s absence forced him to labor in a variety of capacities to support his family. It is at this early age that work became his passion, his pleasure, and his sacrifice for his family and community. He tried his hand at everything he thought would make a buck and firmly believed that if a man worked hard there was no need for luck in life. He always woke at the crack of dawn, had coffee, and counted his money. His keen intuition and abundance of common sense substituted for his higher education. He was never a fool and from his money he was never parted unless he was being generous and soft-hearted.
He came to reside in Hudson, NY at the age of seventeen, his hands already hardened with thick calluses from working sixteen-hour days in the rural South. And, by his example of honesty, hard work and kindness, he became a pillar of the Hudson community. Jacob was dependable and admired for being a proud and principled man who held his work, promises and family sacred. His childhood endowed him with an irrelevance of material possessions. His trademark “Operation Unite” jacket, Dodger baseball cap and old blue Chevrolet pick-up truck were indicative of his frugality but also symbolic of his philosophy that everything is for the sake of others.
Born into segregation, a time when racism significantly curtailed the activities of Blacks in America, Jacob refused to limit himself. He was quick to utter the words, “We don’t quit.” He considered himself a “poor boy from Georgia” at a time when Blacks were denied the right to vote, segregated in most areas of daily life, and subject to persistent discrimination and violence. He caddied at Augusta National Golf Club, itself a bastion of segregation, and fondly remembers every member including President Dwight Eisenhower being white and every member of the “help” staff being black. Despite Jacob’s rich racial history, in Mandela-like fashion, he genuinely transcended the racism he witnessed as a child and
cultivated friendships and relationships without view of color. Through his business endeavors Jacob had a seismic impact on race relations in Hudson.
Jacob preferred being part of the solution and not part of the problem. In the 1970’s, Blacks in Hudson and surrounding areas felt disenfranchised by white-owned establishments despite being in the North and the legal end to segregation. Rather than fight with establishment owners or tolerate mistreatment, he became a founding member of the Colored Citizen’s Club of Hudson which was one of the few private social clubs for Blacks ever established in New York. Known for his business acumen and integrity, he was elected the club’s President.
In 1982, he co-founded Savoia Bar & Restaurant with his wife Barbara but renounced racial exclusivity in favor of inclusivity. They wanted a setting where all people, regardless of their differences, could gather under one roof. They would manage that business for 35 years, qualifying the establishment as one of upstate New York’s longest-standing Black-owned businesses. The local favorite was known as “The Place to Be” and its multi-cultural clientele that cut across economic strata was a testament to their courage, open-mindedness and belief that people have more in common than they have differences. Many a Hudsonian or visitor has occupied a bar stool, been served by Jacob, and can vividly recount their memories of Savoia which are often evidenced by the countless photographs posted on social media. Unless, of course, they experienced the famed birthday glass which could erase any patron’s mind and have them wondering how they ever made it home safely. Of course, it was Jacob.
More often than not, Jacob was a serious and contemplative spirit – his smile and laughter rarely pierced the clouds of daily life. To him, life was a serious matter and his haunting experiences in early life stifled his ability share his internal happiness. He constantly worried about the safety, security, and success of his children and grandchildren. His love of his wife and children was verbalized almost daily and he never allowed manhood to be an obstacle to saying, “I love you.” He said what he meant, and he meant what he said.
Jacob’s enthusiasm and inner child could be found in his passion for sports including baseball, football, and horseracing. His life-long dedication and loyalty to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Pittsburgh Steelers ran deep and these were more than sports teams to Jacob – they were a source of his identity. In 1947, the Los Angeles Dodgers broke the color barrier and invited Jackie Robinson to be the first negro to play Major League Baseball which created an unbreakable bond between Jacob and the current 2020 MLB World Champions. He was employed at Independent Cement Corporation and Atlas Cement for two decades and to him the Black and Yellow Steeler Nation represented the working men in America’s factories, mines and mills who were all grit and no flash like himself.
Ray Charles’s 1960 hit single Georgia On My Mind always captured his attention and brought back Jacob’s most pleasant childhood memories of family barbecues in his home state of Georgia. Just as his ancestors barbecued to unify his family, he too saw family barbecues as intrinsic to the survival of familial bonds, friendships, and tradition. He routinely manned the pit, at 586 Joslen Boulevard, from sunup to sundown, without specific occasion, just so that he could appreciate the love and laughter among those he loved. As each unifying experience grew with new friends and family members, he grew more content and confident that his mission to keep his family close was accomplished. Inevitably, he would break from the sweltering heat of the pit only to be showered with the screaming affection of the clan’s youngest members who could reach into his gentle soul and produce the kinds of smiles his childhood rarely knew. They will miss him most. He concerned himself with them the most. They were the future of his family and they would someday live out his legacy.
Jacob’s proudest achievement was his family. He had very high expectations of every member and preached to his children that honoring their family name was of utmost importance. He never hesitated to hold his children accountable to the values with which that name was associated.
With Barbara, Jacob Sr. had one daughter, Nona Marie Walthour (Lockridge) and two sons, Jacob Walthour, Jr. and Marcus Alger Walthour, who survive him, as do his in-laws Holly Walthour and ShawnDya L. Simpson, six grandchildren, Kenneth Lockridge, Jr., Shariah Walthour, Sharidan Walthour, Jacob Walthour III, Sharis Walthour and Harper Marie Walthour and a host of nieces and nephews. They include Danielle Walthour, Tyrone Walthour, Rachel Robinson-Collins, Nicholas Ortega, Nicole Ortega, Heather Johnson, Crystal Merritt, Brice Ivery, Corey Ivery, Marlon Ivery, Chelsea Ivery, Kennedi Ivery, Ja-lisa Ivery and Ja-Naiya Ivery. He is also survived by dozens of surrogate sons and daughters, who have taken his lessons and example to heart, that are too numerous to list but not forgotten.
The eldest of ten children, born to Willie Mae, Jacob worshipped his siblings with paternal affection and beamed with pride at their educational, military, career, and personal achievements. He is survived by two sisters, Monica Ortega-Porras and Barbara “Teppy” Walthour and three brothers, Donald Walthour, Gene Walthour and Douglas Walthour. He was predeceased by three sisters, Paulette (Walthour) Robinson, Alberta (Sue) Walthour and Nora Walthour and one brother, Lloyd Sullivan. Affectionately and honorably mentioned, Jacqueline Merritt and Francis Hughes have personified sisterhood to Jacob for over sixty years. In lieu of flowers and cards donations can be made to: Operation Unite for Youth PO Box 1305 Hudson, NY 12534