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The McClures learned that their son had been following Pablo's progress at the Kansas City Art Institute, making sure that he had enough money for school supplies and was keeping his grades up. On his breaks from school, Muñoz popped into the Starker's kitchen to watch McClure work.
The stories kept coming. Marilyn, a United Methodist lay minister, found comfort in the gospel music that filled the tiny gym: I'm two steps away from my lord and I can almost hear him calling my name ...
Rob McClure, John's older brother and a former manager with Beech Aircraft, is running the day-to-day operations at Starker's.
"We're keeping it open, and we hope the community continues to support it," Marilyn says. "We have parties and reservations booked through the end of the year. Eventually we hope to find a buyer to take it over."
Gold has been aiding the McClure family in the search, and other friends of McClure's continue to look for ways to honor him. It's possible that his name may be added to the scholarship fund he started or that the crawfish boil may become a fundraiser for suicide prevention.
"It literally feels as though the heart of the Kansas City restaurant scene has been removed," Heskett says. "Just a big gaping hole where once stood bighearted, passionate, talented and good-natured John McClure."
At his home, McClure displayed a triptych of paintings by Kale Van Leeuwen — whose artwork also graces a wall of Starker's — depicting empty chairs, stand-ins for those that should have been around McClure's dining-room table. He never wanted to look at empty seats. He wanted his friends around that table. In their absence, he kept it free of chairs.
Tonight, there will be empty chairs at J.J.'s and the Rieger and the Vietnam Café. The chairs sit waiting for him. McClure would have been 36 years old this Friday.