Sometimes, it’s hard to mourn for people. You want to remember them as loving husbands or pillars of the community. You want to celebrate their generous spirit and their love of life and silliness. But when death comes too soon and under tragic circumstances, mourning becomes fraught. You ask yourself how things could have been different and what could have been done to prevent the fateful chain of events.
It’s ironic that Scott Magnuson, co-owner of the Argonaut, was, like the beloved restaurant and gathering place, taken away from us far too soon and in circumstances that leave us with more questions than answers. For Scott, death came over the summer. For the Argonaut, The Washington Post labeled it as a “dispute of ownership” back in late 2016, when the restaurant was padlocked by co-owner Joe Englert and everyone was locked out of the building for good. This event, painful and seemingly random, also left far more questions than it answered.
Sometimes, when it’s hard to mourn, the best thing to do is to spend some moments celebrating the good and remembering people – and beloved places– the way we wish they still were. Scott and the Argonaut, until that fateful day back in 2016, were nearly synonymous. He was a generous man, comfortable talking to anyone and always willing to lend a hand in the community. He was also a proud father to his daughter, Ara, with ex-wife Shaaren Pine. Many of us who came through the doors of the Argonaut were privileged to see how much he cared about his family. Such was his care, devotion and commitment to staying sober that he and Shaaren wrote a book, Torn Together, about their experiences as a family trying to work through the constant threat of addiction. Scott and Shaaren also started a nonprofit called Restaurant Recovery. The aim of the charity was to raise awareness and provide help for people in the industry who need help with drug and addiction treatment, something that is highly prevalent within the restaurant industry but is seldom talked about.
Unfortunately for Scott, his personal turmoil was stronger than his ability to stay sober. His battle with addiction kept him from staying too long in one place until he moved to St Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He lived there for a little over a year before he died in June. He would have been 44 years old today.
The Argonaut was more than just a local restaurant run by people who also happened to be our neighbors: It was a gathering and meeting place. It was a little haven and a fun sit-down restaurant at a time where H Street NE was mostly clubs and carryout joints. The Argo welcomed you whether you had two little, annoying children in tow or were having breakfast right before the walk of shame home. It was a place to hold political rallies and birthday parties and a place to watch sports and just sit and enjoy the diverse humanity that came in through its doors. It felt a bit like a ship, nose pointed northeast, perhaps searching for the golden fleece.
You will both be in our hearts, always.
Would you like to share an anecdote from the Argonaut? Send us an email at info@thehillishome and we will publish it. If you have a spicy anecdote, please let us know that you’d rather be anonymous.