James J. Osborne Jr., food service manager, football star and NFL official, dies at 83

James J. Osborne Jr., 83, formerly of Erdenheim, former CEO and co-owner of Williamson Hospitality Services, Army veteran, football star at La Salle College High School and Villanova University, and official of the National Football League, died Sunday April 17 of prostate cancer at KeystoneCare Hospice in Wyndmoor.

Mr. Osborne was an executive with Williamson, based in Willow Grove, from its inception in 1994 until his retirement in the early 2000s. He specialized in institutional and corporate catering services and was an expert in catering and food preparation for businesses, schools, nursing homes and other locations.

In charge of the company’s menus, staff of 300, and preparing and serving its meals, he has also lectured annually to Cornell University cooking students and won an award for Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Restaurant Association, based in Washington.

He was featured in a 1994 article in The Inquirer about the opening of Williamson Hospitality Services and, when asked how he would describe his mission, he said, “Our niche will be quality.”

“He was very outgoing and driven by humility,” said his son, Greg. “He liked talking to people in the kitchen more than to managers. He liked working class people.

One of four brothers who excelled as athletes at La Salle High School and local universities – two at Villanova, one at Temple and one at La Salle – Mr. Osborne was a star lineman on the team La Salle High School football team that beat Northeast. High, 26-0, in the 1955 Philadelphia City Championship game in front of 20,000 fans at Franklin Field.

He wore No. 40, was named to the Catholic League and City All-Star Football Teams in 1955, and this undefeated championship team was recently inducted into the La Salle High School Hall of Fame. He went to Villanova on a football scholarship, played from 1957 to 1959 and was offered trials, which he turned down, with three professional teams – the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns and Titans of New York – after graduating in 1960.

Mr. Osborne was also a longtime football referee and field official who spent a decade in the 1960s and 70s refereeing high school and college football games, and another half-decade in the 1970s and 80s as a side judge and linesman in the NFL. before a knee injury forced him into retirement.

He told stories of being reprimanded on the field by colorful Oakland Raiders coach John Madden before an NFL game has even started and Widener University star Billy “White Shoes” Johnson promising to wave to him from the end zone after he scores a touchdown – and do just that.

He took his sons to high school and college games and, much to his wife’s dismay, left them to work as ball boys on the chaotic sideline. He also ran the Eagles game clock for years at the Veterans Stadium. “Jim never strayed too far from football,” his family wrote in a tribute.

Born October 29, 1938, Mr Osborne grew up in West Oak Lane and met Sally Campbell in 1944 when they were at St. Athanasius Primary School. They both went to Villanova, married in 1963, and had sons James Joseph III and Greg, and daughter Mollie. His wife died in 2020.

Mr Osborne served two years in the army in the 1960s and worked for 25 years with a number of catering companies before teaming up with the Williamson brothers to form Williamson Hospitality Services. “I’ve always had a burning desire to have my own business,” he told The Inquirer in 1994.

“He was very fair and never spoke ill of anyone,” said his son, James III. “He competed with himself, not with others.”

Mr. Osborne and his wife moved to Florida about 15 years ago. He was a family man and a devout Catholic who supported La Salle and Villanova throughout his life. He enjoyed reading, sailing, playing tennis and golf. He rose early most days to exercise, and he and his wife often marked the sunset with a toast and a prayer.

“Discipline was in his DNA,” said his daughter, Mollie. “He had a lot of integrity.”

“Jim was a first class person in everything he did,” a friend wrote in an online tribute. “He would do anything for his friends, family and even strangers.”

In addition to his children, Mr. Osborne is survived by five grandchildren, three brothers and other relatives.

Services must take place later.

Donations in his name may be made to La Salle College High School, 8605 Cheltenham Ave., Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania 19038.