Dayton, OH — The inventor of the cafeteria utensil, the “spork,” has died at the age of 84 from a bizarre and ironic stabbing accident. William Calvin Spork was pronounced dead at his Dayton, Ohio home Saturday night after what appears to be a fatal and accidental injury from a common butter knife.
“First responders arrived at the 1942 Castrol Street home to find the victim unresponsive from what appears to have been a butter knife wound to the hand,” said Dayton Police spokesperson Bethany Millbright early this morning. “No foul play is suspected, although we will be performing a full investigation, which we expect to conclude early next week.”
A combined spoon, fork, and knife closely resembling the modern spork was invented by Samuel W. Francis and issued U.S. Patent 147,119 on February 3, 1874. Other early patents predating the modern spork include U.S. Patent 904,553, for a “cutting spoon,” granted on November 24, 1908, to Harry L. McCoy and U.S. Patent 1,044,869, for a spoon with a tined edge, granted to Frank Emmenegger in November 1912.
However, it wasn’t until 60 years later that Bill Spork introduced what he called “the spork” to his local Dayton hospital to help speed up meal service. It was an instant hit.
“Bill was one of those constantly inventing types,” said Josh Canton, who runs Utensil Museum in nearby Toledo, OH. “The Spork saved lives, which led to widespread use first across Ohio, and then the rest of the country. No other dining utensil had that kind of rapid adoption. I had the honor of meeting Bill a few years ago. He was always positive and outgoing. A real American.”
Success Rooted in Strife
Born in 1936 as Bill Campton, the infant Spork was abandoned in an Indiana orphanage by his parents who “couldn’t afford to keep him during the Great Depression,” according to his 1996 autobiography Born to Spork. He spent most of his youth bouncing between foster homes before being adopted by Mildred and Bill Spork of Dayton, OH. Mr. Spork says the early strife in his youth contributed to his resilience and determination.
Most people know the spork from the most popular plastic utensil in school cafeterias. In fact, in a 2002 interview with Time Magazine to celebrate its 50th anniversary, Mr. Spork revealed its secrets.
“When I first invented it, I created it as kind of a prank. So it’s no wonder the kids figured that out real quick. I mean, visit any school across the country and watch them launch bits of their food across the cafeterias. It’s the perfect slingshot.”
As for his demise over the weekend, a long-time friend Carol Debbinsoot said that he probably died trying to cook-up another prank.
“As sad as I am about his passing, I’m sure he was trying to figure out a new joke. His poor wife was always subjected to his foolery.”