I posted on Facebook earlier about the passing of Truett Cathy. Several people asked what I meant when I said because of Truett Cathy I met Matt…
EronMarie (Burgess) Maddox helped me get a job at Chick-fil-A my junior year of high school [thanks to her sister Beverly (Burgess) Schmidt who was the first one to get a job there]. I wouldn’t even try it when one of the samplers asked me to a few weeks prior (not a “fried” chicken fan – but anyone can tell you, Chick-fil-A’s are pressure cooked ;)). To this day, I eat there every chance I get. But 21 years ago, I was the recipient of a Chick-fil-A scholarship which allowed me to come to Springfield to attend Evangel. One of the first people I met was this cute supervisor who was cleaning a lemonade machine at the local store where I was slated to start working a week or so later. A few weeks later, we went on our first date. Three and half years after that, we married. I scrolled through the trending topic today and saw a number of comments about how they met and married because of Chick-fil-A.
I met Truett more than once. The first time was when he was at College of the Ozarks to receive an award (that’s the photo I was looking for today). I also met him when I spent two weeks at Corporate for training (see blurry photo above). Our local mall store had closed very unexpectedly (Steve found out one day, told us in management the next, had a team meeting the day after, didn’t open for business March 1). Steve had owned the store right at a year. He had no means to take care of the employees, even for a short period. The decision quickly went to the top levels and immediately then-CEO Jimmy Collins and Truett said to make sure the employees were taken care of. We expected to open at a new location in a couple of months but it ended up being more than 6. EVERY employee was given at least two weeks severance pay, based on the amount of time worked for Chick-fil-A. Several were given eight weeks (based on time worked and managerial status). I was one of the eight weekers.
I spent two of those weeks at Corporate training in Atlanta. I spent about 10 weeks that summer running the Northwest Plaza store in St. Louis. Matt quit his job to join me in STL that summer. The corporate office continued to pay both of us until the new store here finally opened in October.
And he had rubber duckies in the bathtub in his corporate office bathroom. He didn’t take himself too seriously.
And he knew what was important.
He was a genuine man. He created a culture where it’s not only acceptable but encouraged to reach out into the community. To stand on street corners when traffic is at a stand still nearby during a winter storm. To essentially close down when the funeral procession of a police officer goes by outside. To have someone outside walking people in with umbrellas during rain storms. To give food to customers who realize they’ve forgotten their wallets.
For fifty years, he taught 13yo boys Sunday school. Hundreds of kids have been taken care of through WinShape Homes. He was personally guardian for a number of them. When two girls did $30K of damage to one of his homes, rather than pressing charges and giving them a record that would follow them, he came to an agreement with their parents.
His passing didn’t surprise me, but it does sadden me. He grew up with nothing during the Depression. He took an idea as simple as a chicken sandwich and created an empire that has affected millions directly and indirectly. I’ve met Dan Cathy on a number of occasions as well. My thoughts and prayers are with the entire family.
RIP Truett. It’s been our pleasure.