Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, dies at 93 - CBS46 News

Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, dies at 93

Truett Cathy Truett Cathy

S. Truett Cathy, founder of the Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant chain, has died. Cathy passed away at 1:35 a.m. Monday at home surrounded by family. He was 93.

Cathy, who retired as the Chick-fil-A CEO and chairman in 2013, started the business in 1946 with his brother when they opened Dwarf Grill -- later renamed Dwarf House. Their first day sales totaled $58.20

"You would say, get up, let me get your seat! You kind of claimed your seat when you went in," said Saralyn Saunders Deyer, 71, who used to eat at the Dwarf Grill as a child. She said seating was limited due to the restaurant's small size.

Deyer, and hundreds of other customers, packed the Dwarf House Monday to pay their respects to Cathy. Some even left flowers by the statue, created in Cathy's image, outside of the restaurant.

"It's a sad day; it's a very sad day," said Laura Pitsikoulis, a customer who stopped to get her picture made by the statue.

While at the Dwarf Grill, Cathy created his popular boneless, chicken sandwich called the "Chick-fil-A". He used that same name when he opened the first Chick-fil-A restaurant in 1967 in Atlanta's Greenbriar Shopping Center. There are now more than 1,800 of the restaurants in 40 states and the District of Columbia.

The restaurant chain is notable for its chicken and for the strong conservative values instilled by Cathy, including closing the stores on Sundays so employees can attend church.

For Pitsikoulis, that's what stands out even more than Cathy's food.

"He means integrity; He means giving back; he means staying true to his values," said Pitsikoulis.

"For Truett, it was so much more than building a national chain," said Tim Tassopoulos, Senior Vice President of Operations for Chick-fil-A. "It was also a place where Truett could invest in people, giving them a first job, a place to learn about hard work, and a place for many to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams."

Cathy leaves a legacy of philanthropy, most notably through his WinShape Foundation that was founded in 1984. WinShape grew from Cathy's desire to "shape winners" by helping young people succeed in life through scholarships and other youth-support programs.

Chick-fil-A's history has not been without controversy, however. In 2011, it was reported in the media that through WinShape millions of dollars were donated to organizations that oppose same-sex marriage. In 2012, Chick-fil-A COO Dan Cathy made statements against same-sex marriage that sparked boycotts and public outrage.

In response, the company released the following statement:

"The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 Restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena."

Cathy is survived by his wife, Jeannette, three children -- Trudy, Don ("Bubba") and Dan -- 19 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and more than 150 "foster grandchildren."

According to, Cathy had a net worth of $6.3 billion.

The public will be able to pay respects to Cathy at public viewings from 4 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 9 and from noon to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 10 at the First Baptist Church in Jonesboro.

A public funeral service will take place Wednesday, Sept. 10 at 2 p.m. at the church. Mourners are asked to park at the nearby Tara Stadium at 1055 Battle Creek Road. There will be shuttle service to the funeral and viewing.

The Cathy family will hold a private burial Thursday in Atlanta.

Ted Blum, chairman of the Chick-fil-A Foundation Advisory Board, issued this statement:

"Truett Cathy's life celebrated the youth of America with respect, encouragement and opportunity like no one else I know. It was a life well lived.

"On behalf of the civic leaders who comprise the advisory board of the Chick-fil-A Foundation, we wish to pass along our sympathies to the family and friends of Mr. Cathy. He has institutionalized a culture of kindness, thoughtfulness and giving, and that legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of bright young leaders. They will continue his work on earth and make positive contributions to our world. He was a notch above the rest of us, but we all rose higher because of him. He made humanity better.

"I am personally honored to have a role in his benevolence and appreciate all that he has given to so many and the remarkable influence he has had on so many."

In lieu of flowers, the Cathy family has asked that donations be made to the WinShape Foundation to further Truett's legacy of developing and supporting young people.

Donations can be sent to: WinShape Foundation, 5200 Buffington Road, Atlanta, GA, 30349

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