The 950 Speakeasy Bistro in Lagro is a two-story bar and eatery that opened to the public in early July after undergoing a complete renovation.

The work by owners and operators Justin and Darcie Gillespie spanned more than a year after being halted during the pandemic, said public relations and marketing specialist Morgan Ellis. The 950 Speakeasy, located on the lower level of the eatery, boasts its handcrafted cocktails, “Lagro Water,” “River Island Sunrise,” “Blue Star Highway” and many others.

Samantha Fox said when her husband, Teizo Fox, 41, of Lagro, started working at the 950 Speakeasy “it was just fun to him, a place he could let his creativity loose.”

“He enjoyed greeting the customers when they would walk in the door. Then coming to check on everything to make sure it was perfect,” said Samantha Fox. “And don’t forget to always tell the customer, ‘Goodbye, come again.’ Teizo took so much pride in his work at the 950 Speakeasy.”

That spirit certainly resonated with Teizo’s customers because when nominations for the Plain Dealer’s annual Best of Wabash County contest began in late September, his name was quickly added to the list for Greatest Bartender in the Greatest People category.

But on Saturday, Oct. 23 – the same day voting began in the contest – tragedy struck.

Just after midnight, Teizo Fox died in a single-vehicle crash.

Afterward, Samantha Fox encouraged friends and family to continue to vote for Teizo Fox in the contest.

By the time voting closed a few weeks later, the community had responded by voting him the winner.

But, of course, to those who knew and loved him, Teizo Fox was much more than the best bartender.

In addition to numerous extended family members, he left behind Taylen Fox, Jayden Fox and Nyla Fox, from a previous marriage. He and Samantha also had Lincoln M. Fox and stepdaughter Bailey Wilbanks, “all of which were loved more than they know,” according to his obituary.

“Teizo had a passion for food, drinks and people,” said Samantha Fox. “It’s hard to explain the charisma that was Teizo. His big smile and gentle personality is what always greeted you when you would meet him. He was a calm person, nothing was ever a problem, (a) glass half full kind of person.”

Misty Sollberger said her favorite memory of her “baby brother” Teizo Fox “was the day he called and told me that he found his queen and was getting married and wanted me there.”

Sollberger said that same month he called again said, “Misty, you’re going to be an aunt again.”

Those who knew him often remember that Teizo Fox knew how to have fun.

“He loved life, and he made you love life,” stated his obituary. “He camped in his backyard, listened to music, had bonfires and puttered around in that yard endlessly. Teizo also loved kayaking and started the Wabash River Warriors Kayak group on Facebook. He never met a kayak or a person he did not like, or that did not like him.”

Sollberger said Teizo Fox was also a great cook.

“I also remember the first time Teizo ever cooked for me it was so good I had the ‘itis’ and went right to sleep,” said Sollberger.

And then, there were the clowns.

“Teizo cooked a lot, fished a lot, and loved clowns, freakishly a lot, which brings us to Halloween. It was not uncommon to find him roaming the neighborhood dressed as a clown the entire month of October scaring people,” stated his obituary.

“Teizo loved his clowns,” said Sollberger.

Amanda Galley, of Amanda Galley Photography, is the Fox family’s photographer. Galley said now and then he’d ask for a “crazy clown picture.”

“And that crazy laugh of his. But that was Teizo. That’s what made him amazing. I will miss that laugh and his contagious smile,” said Galley.

Galley said when she heard the news about Teizo Fox, her heart was “broken.”

“Being a photographer, you end up getting to know certain families very well, and in a sense, they become part of you,” said Galley. “You share a family bond of sorts. You’re there for every milestone. You’re capturing all of their precious moments. You build a relationship.”

Galley said there was never a dull moment when Teizo Fox was around.

“He could make every ounce of nerves I had in every photo shoot disappear,” said Galley. “Always had a smile on his face, and the kindest soul. Always encouraging. Always telling people about my work. Always down to do whatever pose I asked for, no matter how difficult or insane it seemed to be.”

Galley said being their photographer gave her a unique perspective on the family’s candid, intimate moments.

“The love he had for his wife, which was undeniable, for his kids and his family and friends. The world has lost a great man. This family has lost a very special part of them. And, truth be told, a part of me feels lost, too,” said Galley.

Galley said shooting their family photographs was her “first big gig.”

“They had faith in me, loved my work and from then on, I was their family photographer,” said Galley. “I’ve been there for their engagement, wedding, maternity session and welcoming their little Lincoln into this world,” said Galley.

Galley said if the family hadn’t approached her to take their pictures she didn’t know if she would ever have “had the guts” to pursue her dream.

“I have always credited them for being the ones who gave me my big break. Something I could never repay them for,” said Galley. “We are devastated and this world will not be the same without him. He will truly be missed. He was an amazing husband, father and an awesome friend. I will cherish every memory. Please keep his wife, kids and family in your prayers. Rest easy, Teizo. One in a million. Gone too soon.”

On Wednesday, Nov. 24, the 950 Speakeasy, 950 Washington St., Lagro, will host a fundraiser in memory of Teizo Fox, during which 20 percent of the proceeds for the day and any free-will donations will go to his family.

Rob Burgess, Wabash Plain Dealer editor, may be reached by email at rburgess@wabashplaindealer.com.