Known for his family's business and its local TV commercials, Tom Jabara frequently stopped to chat with people.
"There wasn't anybody that wasn't friends with Tom," said his son, Jason Jabara.
Thomas "Tom" Jabara, 63, died Wednesday after a four-year battle with cancer. He was president and co-owner of Jabara's Carpet Outlet in Wichita.
Mr. Jabara, his late brother, William "Bill" Jabara, and their mother frequently appeared in company advertisements in the 1980s and 1990s.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"Everywhere we went, whether we were walking around the mall or we were out to eat dinner somewhere, somebody would come up to my dad and say, 'Hey, Tom, how've you been?'" Jason said. "And he would chat them up and they would talk about it, and as soon as they would leave I'd say, 'Dad, who was that,' and he'd say, 'I have no idea who that was.'"
"He hasn't been on TV in 20 years, and he was still recognized everywhere that he went."
Mr. Jabara was born July 8, 1954, in Wichita. After graduating from Wichita Heights High School in 1972, he was offered a full-ride math scholarship to the Colorado School of Mines.
But Mr. Jabara, the youngest of five brothers, opted to stay in Wichita and work for his father, George Jabara, while attending Wichita State University. George had health problems, and the other brothers were in college and weren't around to help.
Two years earlier, George had started the discount retail business, Jabara's Damaged Freight with Bud Palmer.
After their father died in 1978, Bill joined Tom in running the family business. They opened Jabara's Carpet Outlet in 1985, and added Jabara's Carpet Galerie 10 years later.
After the carpet outlet store opened, the popular commercials hit local TV with the catchy jingle: "Everyday is a savings day at Jabara's Carpet Out-let."
The store still uses the same melody in its commercials, and the Jabaras have the old ads on VHS tapes.
Mr. Jabara took care of the home improvement side of the business and purchasing while Bill did the marketing and promotion. After Bill died in 2000, George Jabara Jr. took on Bill's work.
They regarded themselves as equals with neither having final say without the other's consent. On split decisions, "We usually argue until one of us gives in," Mr. Jabara told The Eagle after the carpet outlet store opened. Bill added, "When we first started together, we spent a lot more time arguing than now."
Mr. Jabara told The Eagle that Bill was the "dreamer" and credited him with the business's expansion. It grew to fill an entire city block bounded by Broadway and Topeka between 17th and 18th streets.
Jason joined the business in the early 2000s and took over as CEO in 2014, when Mr. Jabara was first diagnosed with cancer.
"He set the example," Jason said. "He was never too good that he couldn't hop on a forklift. Up until he just recently got sick, he was still coming to work every day. He had lost the use of his voice, he was slower and had lost so much weight, but he still showed up to work every day and he pointed to have the guys move boxes and rearrange the warehouse."
He also served as chauffeur for his grandchildren, picking them up from school, taking them to dance and cello lessons, rock climbing and sports practices.
"He would drive all over the city, and he couldn't talk, so it was just about spending as much time with them as possible while he was here," Jason said.
The cancer came back in January or February and spread. He didn't smoke cigarettes or chew tobacco, Jason said.
Mr. Jabara was involved in his sons' sports and Boy Scouts and used his position to help others.
"My dad had a really big soft spot for kids, younger people, particularly young men who may not have grown up with a father," Jason said. "He bought uniforms for every baseball team I ever played on and never asked for a penny. I played on a lot of teams that had kids that didn't have two nickels to rub together, but he thought they should have the opportunity to play sports."
"My brother and I were in a scout troop that had quite a few kids that didn't have dads and didn't have much money, and he always made sure that they had uniforms, he made sure that they were able to go on camping trips, he made sure that they had a sleeping bag."
Even after his sons were out of school, Mr. Jabara was still involved with a wrestling club at Wichita Heights High School where he would pay for the tournament fees of other children.
"It was always important to him to try and provide that to kids, and most of it was anonymously," Jason said. "He never asked for any credit for it."
When it came to business, he put the company first.
"He didn't make decisions based on how it would impact him or how it would impact a singular employee, it was always about, 'Is this good for the company as a whole,'" Jason said.
"We have a very successful business, but honestly we could have an even more successful business if we chose to. I say that because whether you're extremely rich or you don't have any money, you can still afford flooring at our store. For what we sell our products for, we could sell them for more, but it was never about the money for him, it was about providing jobs to 50 people, it was about providing insurance at a cost to the company for 50 employees and making sure that our employees were able to provide for their families."
As cancer took his voice, Mr. Jabara spent more time with family.
"I think he was content knowing that the company was in good hands with my brother and I, so these last few years, he came in every day, but he wasn't burdened with having to make the decisions," Jason said. "He tried to spend as much time with his grandkids these last couple years as possible."
Tom Jabara is survived by his wife, Susan; sons, Jason and Joshua Jabara, all of Wichita; grandchildren, Madelyn, Jenna, Allison, Jacob and Jackson Jabara; and brothers, George and Nick Jabara of Wichita and Larry Jabara of Overland Park. Memorials can be made to the St. George Orthodox Christian Cathedral and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
A funeral service was scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at St. George Orthodox Christian Cathedral. Burial will take place at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Kensington Gardens.