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date: 24 February 2021

Thomas, Davelocked

(02 July 1932–08 January 2002)
  • Dennis Wepman


Thomas, Dave (02 July 1932–08 January 2002), restaurateur and philanthropist, was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the son of an unwed mother. He was adopted at the age of six weeks by Rex Thomas, a construction worker, and Auleva Sinclair of Kalamazoo, Michigan. He never met his birth parents, and his adoptive mother died when he was five years old, later replaced by three subsequent wives of his adoptive father. Thomas went to schools in many cities in the Midwest and the South as his father moved around looking for work, and he spent his summers with his maternal grandmother in Kalamazoo. He attended high school in Fort Wayne, Indiana, but left before finishing the tenth grade, at the age of fifteen. The many after-school jobs he held began with that of counterboy at Walgreen's Drug Store in Knoxville, Tennessee, when he was twelve, and included stints in several restaurants. In 1947 he took a job as a busboy at Hobby House, a family restaurant in Fort Wayne, where he remained, living at the YMCA, when his adoptive family moved on. Three years later he joined the army and, because of his experience in restaurant work, was given the chance to sign up for Cook and Bakers School at Fort Benning, Georgia. Thomas reached the rank of staff sergeant and was made the manager of an enlisted men's club, serving as many as two thousand people a day, in Germany. He was the youngest ever to hold that position....

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