On Sunday, Feb. 24, the Williamsburg community will come together for an annual dinner to raise money for the American Cancer Society (ACS).

The John Randolph/Mark Ellis Memorial Dinner will be held at the Williamsburg Lodge and will feature chefs from some of the area’s premier restaurants. David Everett, executive chef and owner of the Trellis, will prepare the appetizer; Chef Justin Dallinger of Kingsmill Resort will provide the salad; Chefs Rhys Lewis and Anthony Frank of Colonial Williamsburg will prepare the entrée; and Chef Tony Rizzo of Two Rivers Country Club will craft the dessert. The chefs and their respective restaurants are donating all of the food, time and staff involved.

The event was created in memory of John Randolph, a former athletic director at the College of William and Mary who died in 1995 after a three-year battle with lung cancer. Those who knew John portray him as a joyous, funny and outgoing man of conviction and compassion.

His widow Maynard Randolph, who lives in Williamsburg and attends the dinner every year, describes John as a “fantastic father” to their two children and a person of great commitment who, to give one example, was a runner who ran throughout the last 13 years of his life “without ever missing a day.”

It was John Randolph’s assistant athletic director, Bobby Dwyer, who rallied friends and colleagues to create the first fundraising dinner in 1996, with all proceeds donated to the ACS.

“John hired me in 1985 and I am forever indebted to him,” says Dwyer, now head of fundraising for William and Mary athletics. “He touched a lot of lives on and off campus, and his memory lives on through this dinner.”

Among the regulars attending the dinner year after year were John Randolph’s friend and oncologist Dr. Mark Ellis and his wife, Lynn Ellis. As the director of Riverside Health System’s cancer program, Dr. Ellis founded the Peninsula Cancer Institute, which has offices in Newport News, Williamsburg
and Gloucester.

After Ellis lost his own battle with cancer in 2010, Dwyer and fellow dinner committee members approached Lynn and asked her for permission to include Mark’s name on the event.

“It was nice for the committee to think of Mark, to add his name to the dinner,” says Lynn, who has recently written a book about her husband’s life and work. (Read about the project online at thehealthjournals.com/2012/04/lynn-hamilton-ellis.)

Now in its 17th year, the event has raised has raised more than $150,000 for the ACS.

A reception/cocktail hour precedes the dinner, and besides a few words from Dwyer thanking guests, there is no official program—leaving guests to enjoy table conversations and, of course, the fabulous food. “You’ll come, see friends, meet people and have a wonderful meal,” says Dwyer, describing the night as simply “elegant.”

(From Left) Dr. Mark Ellis and John Randolph