Reimagining Northwest Ohio's Famous Handless Jacques
Discover how a retired building contractor is spearheading the effort to restore a beloved Ohio statue.
Anyone who’s ever visited or lived on the Marblehead Peninsula over the past half-century knows of Handless Jacques.
Jacques was the mascot of an eponymous central Ohio fast-food chain (where he was billed as “the big man with the big sandwiches”). The statue that now greets travelers on Ohio Route 163 in Danbury Township once stood in front of a restaurant in Marion, Ohio. After the chain was bought out, Jacques made the trek to his current home next to the Mickey Mart in northwest Ohio. (A twin that formerly was in front of a Mansfield, Ohio, franchise found a home on a piece of land near Buckeye Express Diner in Mansfield — and a new identity as the world’s largest bobblehead.)
Mike Cahill, a retired building contractor originally from the Cleveland area, remembered camping in Marblehead as a kid. And he was so taken by Jacques that he worked with the Port Clinton Area Arts Council, donating his time to repair him — and even give him new hands.
“I was back in Marblehead for the first time in about 15 years, and when I saw it, I said, ‘there’s only one guy crazy enough in this world to fix it, and that’s me,’” Cahill says from his home in Florida. “I was told that there aren’t a lot of roadside statues that are this tall anymore. It really inspired me.”
When Cahill still lived in Ohio, one of his neighbors was Dave Young, the owner of Young’s RV in nearby Fremont. Young bought the piece of property on which Jacques now sits in the 1980s, and the statue was included. When Cahill approached him with the idea to fix the big guy up, he was all for it.
Cahill had a tight window in which to get the job done — warm enough to work outside with fiberglass, but not during the Marblehead Peninsula’s busy season. He relied on a team of volunteers to do the work. “I just directed traffic,” he says.
He envisions a three-phase plan. The first phase, now complete at a cost around $9,000, involved restoring the statue itself and getting it new hands (back when it functioned as a sign, they held a tray showing some of the restaurant’s wares). The tails of Jacques’ jacket were fixed, and new fiberglass was installed where cracks were showing.
“The bones are solid, but the skin was starting to fall apart,” Cahill says.
Jacques’ bowtie was painted to look like an American flag — and he was adorned with a silk Lakeside daisy boutonniere covered in fiberglass.
Further plans include a flagpole in Jacques’ hand and additional lighting and landscaping on the property. Cahill says the reaction has been almost universally positive.
“As a builder, I’m used to some pushback,” he says. “I got nothing. Everybody seemed to want it fixed. It’s a landmark. People love it.”
The only criticism he’s gotten is on the size of Jacques’ hands, which seem out of proportion to the rest of his body. But Cahill’s done enough research to know that accuracy would be even more ridiculous.
“If you look at the picture in Marion, his hands are huge,” he says. “We actually made the hands two feet smaller, and people are still talking about his hands.”