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Rotarians ready to roast Sherman

March 12, 2014 - Folks are being invited to mock, insult and poke fun at local newspaperman James A. Sherman, Sr., founder of Sherman Publications, Inc. (SPI).

But don't worry, it's all in good fun and for a worthy cause.

The Rotary Club of Oxford is hosting a roast for Sherman on Saturday, April 12 at the Boulder Pointe Banquet Center (1 Champions Circle) in Oxford Township.

Tickets are $70 each or $130 for couples. Proceeds will benefit the Rotary Club's scholarship fund for students living in the Oxford area.

"I think we're going to get a bunch of politicians and a bunch of businesspeople (attending)," said Rotarian Mickey Hiatt, who serves on the roast committee and has been a close friend of Sherman's since the early 1980s. "Hopefully, we get the elite of the Oxford, Clarkston and Orion area to come. I think it's going to be a very nice affair."

Seating is limited to 250.

The roast will involve a sit-down dinner with three meal options – prime rib, bone-in pork loin and salmon fillet. There will also be a cash bar. Cocktails are at 6 p.m. followed by dinner at 7 p.m.

Those who wish to attend the roast are encouraged to mail their checks and dinner choices to the Rotary Club of Oxford, P.O. Box 347, Oxford, MI 48371.

The decision to roast Sherman was prompted by the desire to celebrate his life while he's still around to enjoy it and give others a chance to express their appreciation and gratitude for his friendship and community involvement over the years, according to Hiatt.

"It's too bad we wait to honor people after they're gone instead of while they're still here," he said. "We want to honor Jim while he's here."

Sherman is well-known in northern Oakland County for creating a prosperous, family-owned publishing chain that's blanketed the area with local news and advertising for decades.

Today, the SPI name is synonymous with pride, quality and independence as the second generation of Shermans leads the chain.

And it all started with one newspaper – The Oxford Leader.

Sherman bought the weekly, community newspaper in 1955 and served as its publisher until his retirement in 1993.

Having been born and raised in small town Michigan, he never had any desire to work for a big-city newspaper. He always felt secure and confident in a small-town environment. He also believed there was more opportunity to succeed outside the concrete jungle.

When Sherman came to Oxford, he found a town in transition. He was part of a new generation of entrepreneurs who had purchased many local businesses from the Old Guard. Sherman could relate to these new owners because they were his age and many were World War II veterans like himself.

Over the years, he purchased and ran other newspapers including the Lake Orion Review (1972), Clarkston News (1966) and Davison Index (1976). He also founded two weekly shoppers, the Ad-Vertiser (1961) and Penny Stretcher (1982).

Helping run this local publishing empire was his loving wife of 51 years, Hazel. She began working at the Leader office in 1957 and continued to help run the company until her passing in February 2001.

Even though he's formally retired, Sherman still pens a popular column for SPI newspapers entitled "Jim's Jottings."

He uses his space on Page 7 to opine on a variety of topics including politics, his five grandchildren, his dog Shayna, memories of the past, doctors, golf, the loss of common sense and of course, his absolute favorite food, bacon.

Sherman's observations are frequently humorous, sometimes biting and always entertaining. He offers a unique view of the world and the people around him.

Never one to shy away from his responsibilities as a community leader, Sherman was involved in a number of local groups.

Over the years, he served as president of both the Oxford Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club of Oxford. He remains an honorary Rotarian.

He chaired the Oxford Twp. Parks and Recreation Committee for nine years and served on the board of directors for the Dominican Sisters' short-lived DeLima Junior College. He also served on Oxford Bank's board of directors.

"I think he's a community-minded person," Hiatt said. "He's always given to causes that he believes in. That's what's good about him."

As a U.S. Navy veteran who served in WWII from 1944-46, Sherman has life memberships in the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Oxford resident Tom Offer will serve as the roastmaster at the April 12 event. "He actually volunteered," Hiatt said. "He said, 'I'd love to do it. I've got lots of material.'"

SPI Assistant Publisher Don Rush, who's worked for the Sherman family since 1985, will serve as one of the roasters.

Audience members will be allowed to get their jabs in as well. "We'll pass the microphone around," Hiatt said.

The roast will also feature YouTube videos "so people who can't make it can put their two cents in," Hiatt noted.

In addition to selling tickets, the Rotary Club is also raising money for the scholarship fund by selling advertising space in the roast program. Ad prices are as follows – $250 full-page; $175 half-page; and $100 quarter-page.

Folks can also spend $30 to be part of the program's "signature page."

"You can sign your name and make a little statement like 'You can really tell the good die young,'" Hiatt explained.

To purchase ad space, please call Hiatt at (248) 628-0892.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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