Wendy’s restaurant chain founder Dave Thomas also started the charitable organization called Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Did he start it because his daughter Wendy is adopted?
Wendy Thomas was not adopted. She is the fourth child of Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas and his wife Lorraine. Her father Dave Thomas was adopted and named the famous restaurant chain after her although her real name is Melinda Lou Thomas. Her nickname by the family is Wendy.
You can read more below about Dave Thomas being adopted and how Wendy’s was named after Wendy Thomas.
Wendy Thomas’ Father Was Adopted
Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s and father of Wendy Thomas, was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1932 but was immediately put up for adoption by his mother. He never knew or met his biological parents named Molly and Sam.
There was one condition of adoption from his biological mother whose strict Orthodox Jewish family made her put baby Dave up for adoption. He was not to be raised Jewish under any circumstances.
He was later adopted by Rex and Auleva Thomas who lived in Michigan and that was where Dave Thomas was raised. However, he didn’t have the easiest time growing up. Not only did he struggle with knowing he was adopted but his adoptive mother passed away when he was only five years old.
Thomas’s adoptive father remarried but he still ended up with two stepmothers who he lost as well. He remembers that he didn’t like his first stepmother who he said also didn’t like him. His second stepmother was better but she was gone by the time he was ten.
While he tried to remember Rex Thomas with kindness, his stepsisters have revealed that Rex was physically abusive. Dave Thomas never admitted to such things though.
With the constant moving about, Dave did remember that there was one constant, Auleva’s mother and his grandmother Minnie Sinclair. She worked at a restaurant and he would follow her around her job when he was still a toddler.
Wendy’s famous square burgers are actually an ode to Minnie Sinclair whose life motto was ‘Don’t cut corners.’
As a boy, Dave Thomas was obsessed with hamburgers and he said that he would one day own a hamburger stand. He started working in the restaurant industry when he was only 12-years-old and opened up the first Wendy’s restaurant on November 15, 1969.
He opened it when he couldn’t find a good burger in downtown Columbus, Ohio. His daughter Melinda Lou ‘Wendy’ Thomas was only eight at the time.
You can watch the below video from Hook that talks about Dave Thomas’s early life as an adopted child and how he was inspired to create Wendy’s.
As mentioned above, Dave Thomas named Wendy’s restaurant chain after his fourth child Melinda Lou Thomas. The nickname that she went by within their family was Wendy.
Dave Thomas had five children total and he tested out all of their names for the burger chain until he settled on the name Wendy’s using Melinda’s nickname. On top of that, he also made the logo for the restaurant a little girl with freckles, red hair, and two pigtail braids.
The logo was reminiscent of the children’s book character Pippi Longstocking but it also reflected the way his daughter Wendy looked too. She is also a redhead.
One interesting thing about the name of the restaurant is that Dave Thomas later said that he regretted naming the restaurant chain after his daughter Melinda. In an interview that was released posthumously to commemorate Wendy’s 50th Anniversary in 2019, Dave Thomas revealed he was looking for a character that customers would associate with the brand.
Thomas also revealed that he felt like creating the Wendy’s character put a lot of pressure on his daughter. In Dave’s honest and sincere fashion, he apologized to his daughter for that.
Although it did put pressure on Wendy, she has said that she wouldn’t change it. After Dave Thomas passed away in 2002, Melinda became the spokesperson for the company in 2010 and has purchased her own Wendy’s locations. She now owns over 30 locations.
The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is also still helping children to be adopted. They have helped over 10,000 children be adopted. The foundation has also helped the children who have been in foster care the longest to be adopted.
Dave Thomas would be very proud of this achievement.