Our society has a strange custom of showing affection and respect for people when they’re not able to bask in it. Today, for instance, members of the South Carolina senate paid tribute to Tom Sponseller, the missing chief of the South Carolina Hospitality Association, with a few minutes of silent remembrance, the politically correct way of saying “prayer.”
This is a state senate, honoring a man who’d prodded, pressed and pleaded with members of that august body for 22 years. A cynic might say it’s like a mongoose inviting a snake for a spot of tea. It speaks to the respect that Sponseller commanded, even from those who cast in the process as his sometime adversaries.
The industry’s respect for Sponseller has been in strong evidence since word of his disappearance this weekend came to light on Monday morning. He’s been lauded as someone who could maintain a southern charm as he worked diligently as an industry advocate.
Ironically, he was slated to fulfill his education and advocacy roles again this week, at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Travel.
Today brought few additional details about the situation. His wallet and cell phone have not been found. Authorities told local media they’re trying to retrace Sponseller’s steps by looking at credit card transactions and security cameras, but they’ve yet to reveal what if anything they’ve learned.
I join the rest of the foodservice industry in hoping for his safe return to his family.