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Famous Veterans: Dave Thomas

Dave Thomas
Founder/CEO of Wendy's Restaurants

Dave ThomasBorn R. David Thomas in Atlantic City on July 2, 1932. Dave's earliest memory at age 5 is the death of his stepmother. His stepfather was a gruff man and the only time they spent together was eating out in restaurants. Eating out was something Dave loved because he could watch other families be together.

Dave was only 12 when he got his first job in a restaurant. His family moved to a trailer park in Fort Wayne and Dave made his restaurant job at the Hobby House his home away from home.

He dropped out of high school, moved in with the family who owned the Hobby House and focused on ways to promote the restaurant. During the Korean War he volunteered for the Army to avoid the draft and have some choice in assignments.

Thomas chose Cook and Bakers School at Ft. Benning, Georgia. He was sent overseas to Germany as a mess sergeant and was responsible for feeding 2000 soldiers daily. He attributes this experience in mass feedings to his success in fast food. He was discharged in 1953 as a staff sergeant.

He was then offered a chance to turn around a failing Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. Working with Colonel Sanders, Dave turned the failing stores into million-dollar successes.

In 1969, he opened his own hamburger stand on a corner in Columbus, Ohio. He named the stand Wendy's after his youngest of five children. It was an instant hit. Within 10 years, the stand grew into an empire of 2,000 franchises. But with the rapid growth, the business hit bad times. In response, Dave took to the airways as spokesman for the company and people came back in droves.

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