Truett Cathy, founder of the privately owned Chick-fil-A restaurant chain, died early Sept. 8 at the age of 93.
Mark Baldwin, a spokesman for the chain, told the Associated Press that Cathy died at home surrounded by his family. The company said in a statement that plans are unfolding for a public funeral service at 2 p.m. on Sept. 10 at First Baptist Jonesboro church in Jonesboro, Georgia.
The family-owned company reported 46 consecutive years of positive sales growth, translating into a $6 billion fortune for Cathy. Cathy's tremendous wealth earned him a spot in Forbes magazine's list of wealthiest Americans in the country.
Cathy was listed as chairman emeritus on the company website after leaving his post managing day-to-day operations in the hands of younger company executives.
But he wasn't always wealthy. The AP reported that Cathy attributed his hardworking nature to his modest, even impoverished, upbringing. As a little boy, he purportedly made money by selling six Coca-Cola bottles at a time for a quarter.
"I've experienced poverty and plenty, and there's a lesson to be learned when you're brought up in poverty," Cathy said in 2007. "I had to create some good work habits and attitude."
The threshold to Cathy's success manifested in 1946 when he began his career in the restaurant business by opening a diner in Atlanta called Dwarf Grill with his brother.
Cathy continued working well into his 80s, even setting up a contract with his children delegating the prerogative to sell the privately owned chain in the future. However, he strictly forbid making the company public
"Why would I retire from something I enjoy doing?" Cathy said in a 2007 interview. "I can hardly wait to get here."
The prototype for Chick-fil-A was born in 1961 when a company that cooked boneless, skinless chicken for airline meals wanted to sell Cathy the pieces that were too big for customers' needs. Cathy accepted the unwanted chicken and cooked it in a pressure cooker and served it in buttered buns, unwittingly creating Chick-fil-A's first menu item: the trademark chicken sandwich.
Cathy opened his first Chick-fil-A restaurant in an Atlanta shopping mall in 1967.
In the wake of his restaurant's demonstrable success, Cathy even penned a book in 2007 titled "How Did You Do It, Truett?" The book outlined a strategy for success that included setting priorities, being courteous, cautiously expanding a business and avoiding the burden of debt.
"There's really no secret for success," he said. "I hope it will open eyes for people. They don't have to follow my recipe, but this is what works for me."
Cathy is survived by his wife of 65 years, Jeannette McNeil Cathy; sons Dan T. and Don "Bubba" Cathy; daughter Trudy Cathy White; and 19 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren, according to a company statement. Story