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Rex David "Dave" Thomas Passes Away

Today in Masonic History Rex David "Dave" Thomas passes away in 2002.

Rex David "Dave" Thomas was an American businessman and philanthropist.

Thomas was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey to a single mother he never met. At 6 weeks old he was adopted by a couple. His adoptive mother passed away when Thomas was 5 years old. His adoptive father moved with Thomas around the country looking for work. Thomas started working in the restaurant industry at the age of 12 in Knoxville, Tennessee. He lost the job after a dispute with his boss. Later the restaurant featured a signed poster of Thomas in their entrance.

At the age of 15, Thomas began working at the Hobby House Restaurant in Fort Wayne, Indiana for the Clauss family. He dropped out of school when he decided to remain in Fort Wayne when his father moved on. After dropping out of high school he worked full time at Hobby House Restaurant. Thomas regretted dropping out of school and grew concerned over the years young high school students saw him as an example of success without having a high school diploma. Later in life Thomas establish the Dave Thomas Education Center in Coconut Creek, Florida to help people get there GED which Thomas himself did in 1993.

In 1950, Thomas didn't wait to be drafted during the Korean War. Instead he enlisted to get the posting he most desired. He ended up in Germany as a mess Sargent serving more than 2000 soldiers their daily meals. He left the army in 1953 with an honorable discharge.

In the mid 1950's Thomas met Colonel Harland Sanders who had come to Fort Wayne to try to sell franchises for his new chicken restaurant, Kentucky Fried Chicken. Initially Thomas and the Clauss family turned Sanders down, they eventually relented and begin working with the franchise. By 1968, Thomas sold his shares back to Sanders for $1.5 million.

In November 1969, Thomas opened the first Wendy's restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. He named the restaurant after his daughter, Melinda Lou, who could not say her own name when she was little so her nickname became Wendy. In 1982, Thomas stepped down from the day to day business operations of the franchise. In 1985, the president of the company at the time asked him to return to help with slumping sales and a brand recognition problem.

In 1989, Thomas became the TV Spokesperson for Wendy's restaurants. Thomas unfortunately was not a natural actor and he came off, according to critics in the industry, as stiff. In 1990, the company took a new tact in their advertising. With Thomas still as their spokesperson they began making ads featuring Thomas as a more self deprecating character. The idea worked and brand recognition for the company began to soar. Thomas even appeared as himself in the 1994 Bionic Ever After? which was based on the 6 Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman television shows.

Thomas was also an advocate for adoption, he established the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

Thomas passed away on January 8th, 2002 after a long battle with cancer.

Thomas as a member of Sol. D. Bayless Lodge No. 359 Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was a member of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite and received his 33° in 1995. He was also a Shriner.

This article provided by Brother Eric C. Steele.