Steve Ozark, Hawaii’s “Caterer to the Stars” for more than 30 years, died July 24 in Nashville. He was 63.
His former wife, Jan Brenner, said Ozark learned in May that he had pancreatic cancer.
He decided to stay in Nashville where he had been living part time as a caregiver for country and pop music legend Glen Campbell, a longtime friend. Ozark notified her that he was in a Nashville area hospice less than week before his death, she said.
“He was a very private man,” Brenner said.
The couple divorced in 2002 but remained friends.
Brenner described Ozark as a man who “lived life to the fullest” and who enjoyed his leisure time sailing or at his home on a hillside overlooking Kaneohe Bay.
“Larger than life, that was Steve,” she said. “He loved taking care of people and he loved cooking, whether it was ‘Caterer to the Stars’ for the Michael Jacksons of the world or for the River of Life Mission.”
Hawaii concert promoter “Uncle Tom” Moffatt recalled Ozark as “a dear friend and a good person.” Moffatt said he was getting calls from Elton John, Jimmy Buffett and other A-list entertainers who said they considered Ozark as “part of their family,”
Moffatt’s working relationship with Ozark stretched more than 30 years to the days when Ozark had a small hole-in-the-wall fast-food place called The Meat Bun in an alleyway across from Ala Moana Center.
“I got a call from an artist who wanted a couple of sandwiches backstage. This was before (concert) catering really existed here. I called Steve and said ‘Why don’t you handle this?’ He did, and that’s how it started.”
Donna Bebber, executive director of the Hawaii Pops, recalled Ozark a man who thought of others first.
“I worked on a major project with Steve years ago. After the event was pau, we were all exhausted. The next day, Steve unexpectedly showed up at my office with lunch he prepared for me and my assistant. It was one of the best sandwiches I have ever eaten.
The best part was just the thoughtfulness from Steve. He was exhausted as we were but he took the time to prepare the lunch and deliver it to us personally.”
Event producer Ron Gibson remembered Ozark’s ability as a concert caterer to “satisfy the biggest names in the business — from Santana to Bob Dylan to Neil Diamond to Mick Fleetwood. He had a rapport with all of them. I never had a complaint.”
Steve Ozark was born Sept. 29, 1950, in Los Angeles. He got into show business working as a crew member on “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour,” a television variety show that ran from 1969 to 1972. It was a start of a life-long friendship. Ozark’s television experience lead to jobs in Hawaii as lighting director for entertainers John Rowles and Dick Jensen but food became his calling.
In the mid 1970s he opened the Meat Bun. A friendship with KKUA deejay Kamasami Kong inspired a specialty hamburger he dubbed the Kong Burger.
Robin Mann, another friend from Ozark’s Meat Bun days, described them as times that “filled our memory books.” Mann said Ozark never forgot the people who helped him grow from the Meat Bun to “Caterer to the Stars.”
“He was a caring, and thoughtful man who valued lifetime friendships, and all of the people who helped him along the way. Steve demonstrated his gratitude by helping others achieve their potentials and giving young people who were interested opportunities in culinary pursuits. He spoke to me often to help some of his young employees. He sincerely wanted them to achieve.”
Ozark is survived by a younger brother, Leon, and two sisters, Ellen and Nadine.
A funeral will be held Tuesday in Los Angeles. Plans for a celebration of life in Honolulu are pending.