John Witherspoon, also known as “Cheeseburger,” referees a little league game at Bethany Charter School on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022 in Silverton, Ore. Witherspoon received the Spirit of Salem Award for his more than 40 years of service in Salem.

His name is John Witherspoon, but to the thousands of kids he’s mentored and coached, he is simply known as “Cheeseburger.”

The 72-year-old was honored with the Spirit of Salem Award earlier this month for his dedication to the community, which has spanned over 40 years and stretched across the Boys & Girls Club, Four Corners Elementary School and youth sports.

The award, which recognizes Salem’s most influential leaders, is presented by the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce board.

According to the chamber, Witherspoon has mentored and coached at least 38,000 kids.

Witherspoon earned the nickname Cheeseburger in high school after a visit to Bob’s Hamburgers on Capitol Street where he ate 25 cheeseburgers, seven large fries, two large milkshakes and a Coke in an hour while classmates cheered him on.

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