Beloved North Des Moines Restaurant Owner Dies Three Months After House Fire

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Three words: Mr. Bibbs Tenderloins.  "I came with my grandparents every Friday night," said Jamie Zaboo.  Edward Barker added, "They are perfect, they're perfect and crunchy and indescribable."  Julie Fife said, "He pounds them here himself."

It's one of the reasons the news of owner John Essex's death is catching so many like Edward Barker by surprise.  "The people, they are just helpful. It's like a family," he said.

Essex's family tells Channel 13 the death is related to injuries he sustained in a December house fire that left John and his wife, Kathy, badly burned.  The death has now closed Mr. Bibbs for an undetermined time, but it is not just the food that will be missed. It will hit the community a lot and especially with the school kids.

Des Moines North High School is across the street from Mr. Bibbs.  The owners made sure to have affordable lunch prices for students on their break, making it an instant North High staple.  Fife said, "It was the $5 lunch.  That's what they wanted, was to be able to get the kids to come over here that would otherwise drive off campus to go somewhere else."

Barker also remembers John's selflessness when he was having car battery trouble in the street near the restaurant.  "He came over and helped me while he was still working.  He didn't have to. He didn't know me from anyone," said Barker.

To many who frequent it, Mr. Bibbs is more than a restaurant and John Essex was more than just an owner.  "It's just sad you know.  You love these people that make a difference in your life and then they have to pass on.  It's such tragedy," Barker said.

Funeral arrangements have been set for John Essex.  The family will receive friends from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 17 at Iles Westover Chapel.  Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Monday, March 18 at the funeral home.

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