John Phillip Aspra

Date of Birth

August 13, 1956

Date of Death

June 20, 2017

Our dear brother and friend, John Phillip Aspra, died on June 20, 2017, after a 3-year battle with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis a/k/a Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Johnny was born on August 13, 1956, in Tampa, Florida, to John and Sally Aspra, spending his early life on the Florida Gulf Coast. His family moved to Kerrville, Texas, in 1973 where he graduated from high school. Johnny moved to California to attend college and settled in Santa Barbara, California, making that city home for the remainder of his life.

Johnny was a gifted athlete and earned a bachelor’s degree from California State University at Long Beach, and then a master’s degree from the University of Hawaii.

Johnny was also the consummate Renaissance man. He was an avid explorer with an insatiable curiosity about the world. He satisfied that curiosity with many trips around the globe, making life-long friends along the way. He loved to entertain and was a fabulous chef, running the eponymous Epicurean Cowboy catering company in Santa Barbara for many years. He was a fixture at the annual Fiesta celebration in Santa Barbara, and could be seen in the Fiesta parade on horseback every year.

Johnny had refined tastes in music, art, fine food and wine, culture, and clothing. He made us all smile with his signature wardrobe. But what stands out most about John was his ability to make friends wherever he went, and he maintained those friendships throughout his life. Johnny’s family is immensely touched and filled with gratitude by the love and care demonstrated by his dear friends and by Hospice of Santa Barbara. The love and compassion extended to Johnny by several friends in particular will always be remembered with deep gratitude by his family.

In order to support others living with ALS and educate the general public, John started a public Facebook page called “Johnny Aspra’s Epicurean Cowboy Foundation.” On this page in he would talk about where he was with his illness and what he was learning along the way. Sometimes the interviews provided education on ALS itself, but most often it was John reflecting on how to live a quality life with illness, and maintaining dignity throughout the disease process.

Johnny is survived and will forever be loved and missed by his sister Lee Anne Aspra of Austin, Texas; his brothers Chris Aspra (Tia) of Hunt, Texas, and Wesley Aspra of Austin, Texas; and his nieces and nephews. Johnny’s passing leaves a hole in our lives that can never be filled. We take comfort in knowing that he lived the life of a hundred men, and he left the world a better place.

A celebration of life will be held at the Pickle Room on Sunday August 13th from 1 to 5.


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