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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A "Hawkeye" Legacy To Live On Through BBQ Sauce

Fort Thomas resident and owner of Pendery Insurance Tom Pendery and Jeff "Hawkeye" Winkler's sister, Lyn Caruso. FTM file.
If you're from Fort Thomas or ever had a cold beverage at the Olde Fort Pub or Midway Cafe in the last three decades, chances are you knew Jeff "Hawkeye" Winkler.

Known for his infectious smile, quick wit and many talents, Hawkeye was a memorable character who touched many lives. One of those talents was his cooking, and a lot of us may remember his famous barbeque sauce and hot mustard.

Made for friends and family and served up for Sunday dinners, Hawkeye's barbeque sauce had quite a following - so much that he even sold it.

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Lifelong friend, Tom Pendery, who says he probably bought more cases of it than anyone, used to ask Hawk for his recipe. Reluctant, Hawkeye would tell him he would leave it to him in his will.

We lost Hawkeye this past December. Today, Pendery has that famous barbeque sauce recipe and intends to market it to honor his old pal and make sure one of Hawkeye's many legacies live on.

"He always told me he would give me his barbeque recipe, Pendery said. I tried to talk him into the idea years ago. I told him I would fund the thing. Let’s take this public.

He was an accomplished cook; he was accomplished at many different things, and barbeque sauce was just one."

Hawkeye graduated from Highlands in 1968 with the title, "Most Wittiest." He attended Campbellsville College, bartended at the Midway Cafe for several years before becoming a staple bartender at The Pub for 24 years.

Having acquired his nickname as a boy at the Highland Theater, dear friend, Jim Dies said they named the manager, "Hawkeye" since he watched them like a hawk, always catching them causing trouble.

"Jeff would scream this name out in the middle of a quiet part of the movie and enrage the manager who could never figure out the culprit. It was of course, Jeff, and the name stuck with him ever since," said Dies.

His family says he also could best be found fishing at any lake in Campbell County.

Muskie fishing in Canada. photo provided by family
Hawkeye was an amazing bass player who would sit in with some of the best musicians around. He was the original bass player for rock band, East Orange Express, popular in the 60s to today. The band was inducted into the NKY Music Legends Hall of Fame this June and the band did not hesitate to mention Hawkeye at the induction.

As stated in his obituary, Hawkeye loved going to Keeneland and always took the scenic route; he knew every bird and recognized every song. He enjoyed golf and was loved for his humor and compassion for people, especially the down and out and those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. Hawkeye was able to maintain his sobriety and made great strides with his own spiritual journey and was able to share that to help so many others.

East Orange Express - Billy Hinds, Danny Morgan, Bob Ritter, Hawkeye. photo provided by family
Hawkeye enjoyed all music and loved attending NKU concerts. photo provided by family
There were a lot of things people didn't know about Hawkeye. The Pub's Megan Krieg fondly remembers her best memory of him many years ago on a packed Saturday night when he surprisingly asked to take a break at the worst time. The next thing she knew, he was jamming with the band.

"I never knew that he was a genius musician, Krieg said. I knew him as a fellow artist because we talked about art and books often. And of course, I knew him for his barbeque sauce and mustard. I would be his guinea pig whenever he wanted me to be. I learned quickly that I loved every pretzel he dipped in his different sauces for me to try.

He was out of this world that night with the band. I was star struck - sort of like a daughter feeling so proud of her father. Those nights bartending at the pub were some of the greatest times of my life. I loved working with Hawkeye, and I loved that when I walked through the door he would always take a little bow like he was tipping his hat to me and he would say, 'Good day, my beautiful fine young lady.'"

Hawkeye also had a knack for making beautiful fishing lures as well and then there was the barbeque sauce - an in-home operation his sister Lyn Caruso said was labor intensive for him - but something he always put his heart and soul into and dreamed of one day taking up a notch.

After Hawkeye's passing, Caruso, found an old spiral notebook while going through his things. Full of one-liner jokes, the recipe was inside.

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"My brother was hysterical, Caruso said. It just amused me because of all these jokes, and I just randomly looked and saw that recipe. There it is!

Caruso said she was more than glad to give Pendery the recipe.

"It is a legacy that should live on, and he would be thrilled; he would  get a real kick out of it; he would think that it was awesome."

Caruso also found the labels Hawkeye created for his barbeque sauce and famous mustard & dipping sauce which Pendery will use.
"I want to take this up that next notch," said Pendery of the tangy sauce he describes as not smoky but unique and different from other sauces - perfect for ribs and chicken.

Starting off low-scale, Pendery plans to sell the sauce at the Fort Thomas Farmer's Market and eventually put it on market and specialty store shelves - as well as make a hot and mild version.

Pendery says it has been a learning and experimental process as there are a lot of channels - licensing, trademarks and legal processes to go through to get to the ultimate goal.

He says he takes this very serious. "I owe this to him," Pendery said.

Jeff "Hawkeye" Winkler. photo provided by family

"Hawkeye didn’t think he succeeded much in life compared to what was considered the everyday standard of success," Caruso said.

Creative, crafty, generous, and a non-judgemental soul who didn't know a stranger, Hawkeye underestimated the dynamic life he lead. I would say if success is measured in the amount of lives you impact, Hawkeye was a true success.

From hobby to legacy, look out for Hawk's Supreme Barbeque & Gourmet Dipping Sauce.

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