Friends, family gather at vigil for missing lobbyist, Citadel grad

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Family, close friends, and colleagues of a missing hospitality executive gathered at the State House Wednesday night to pray for the man's safe return home.

With the backdrop of South Carolina's legislative house, a place where 61-year-old Tom Sponseller has successfully lobbied for years, hundreds stood in shock trying to process what could have happened.

"We all need him to come home and come home quickly because we need to keep this house in order," said Rick Erwin with the South Carolina Hospitality Association.

David Cooper is a Citadel graduate like Sponseller.

"I cannot imagine why anyone would ever attack him or do anything to hurt him because to me, he was the epitome of a gentleman," said Cooper.

Meanwhile, Sponseller's family continues to hold it together. Sponseller's son spoke Wednesday morning and said the family is doing pretty well despite the circumstances.

Sponseller's daughter-in-law, Lauren Sponseller, spoke during the State House vigil.

"He's a family man," said Lauren. "Anytime anyone needs him -- anything -- we always text or call Tom and if he doesn't pick up immediately he's the person that calls right back."

A Facebook page set up to collect expressions of support and keep friends updated about the search for Sponseller has now racked up more than 1,700 likes.

As longtime head of the South Carolina Hospitality Association, Sponseller was well-known in that industry and around the nation.

Sponseller has been remembered at trade shows in Greenville and the Charleston area over the past few days.

A flier with Sponseller's picture has been adapted not only to the previously mention Facebook page, but also to posters that have been put up on doors and windows all over downtown Columbia.

The flier is also on electronic billboards around the metro area and as far away as Charlotte.

If you have any information about Sponseller's whereabouts, you are asked to call Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.

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