John Benjamin 'Ben' McNamara passed away on Saturday May 27th at age 59 in Kalamazoo of complications from liver disease.
Ben was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 28, 1963 to John Richard 'Dick' and Sidney O'Kane (nee Hagert). In 1968, Sidney moved to Watford, U.K. where she married his adoptive father John McNamara, and Ben attended Beechwood Park School. When Ben was 13 years old, the family returned to the U.S. where he finished high school at the Church Farm School, a private school for boys in Chester County, Pennsylvania. While there, Ben showed promise as a gifted athlete, captaining the soccer and track teams.
After graduating from Church Farm in 1981, Ben attended culinary school in London for a year, after which he returned home to Philadelphia. There, became a baker's apprentice, quickly opening a bakery where he created delicious Cornish pasties, meat and mince pies, and other British and French delights. Building on his knowledge, Ben soon opened his first restaurant, Isabella's, creating Italian cuisine with a French influence. His talent for creating epicurean marvels quickly earned him rave reviews in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and wide renown with an enthusiastic, loyal following.
A pioneer of the gastro-pub movement in Philadelphia, Ben then moved his gifts and flair to the New Wave in Queen Village, where he developed a thriving week-night clientele. Over the following years, Ben's talents moved on to various locales, and he was followed by devoted foodies to other establishments, which included the Dark Horse Pub, Saint Stephen's Green, and the Black Sheep Pub.
Like his father Dick O'Kane, who was a best selling humorist in the 1960's and early 70's prior to living off the grid, Ben had an independent spirit, and irreverent sense of humor. He was a loving man and thus a devoted father.
He is survived by his children Nicholas, Isabelle, and Emily, who still live in the Philadelphia area, and their mother, Marisa, as well as his mother, Sidney, and his father, John McNamara, his brother, Charles, and his sisters, Elizabeth and Catherine.
A memorial service will be held Saturday June 10th at 11am, at Saint Clement's Church, 2013 Appletree Street, Philadelphia PA 19103, and will be live streamed here. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Ben's memory to the Church Farm School.