FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Prominent Fort Wayne businessman Dick Freeland, 76, passed away on Sunday.
Freeland operated the leading Pizza Hut franchise in the world, according to the KFCFW website. Dick and Deanna Freeland opened their first Pizza Hut on East State Boulevard, near Coliseum, in 1972. In 1999, they opened a KFC franchise that received some of the highest sales in KFC history.
The Freelands business grew to include 48 Pizza Huts throughout Indiana and Ohio and four KFCs. Mike Landram worked with Freeland for nearly 14 years before heading to Fort Wayne’s Chamber of Commerce.
“I witnessed personally numerous times when he would show that compassion, whether it was to an employees or to people in the community,” said Landram.
Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters has been friends with Freeland for almost 20 years. During that time, he’s learned so much from him, especially about giving back.
“He’s become somebody that I look up to in terms of what giving back to the community truly means,” said Commissioner Peters.
Dick Freeland received the Sagamore of the Wabash award from Governor Mike Pence earlier in the year.
From IN.gov: The award is highest honor, which the Governor of Indiana bestows. It is a personal tribute usually given to those who have rendered a distinguished service to the state or to the governor. Among these who have received Sagamores have been astronauts, presidents, ambassadors, artists, musicians, politicians, and ordinary citizens who have contributed greatly to our Hoosier heritage.
Congressman Marlin Stutzman released a statement on Freeland’s passing:
“Dick Freeland showed that lasting achievement is built on character and integrity. Our community has lost a generous philanthropist, a successful businessman, and an outstanding Hoosier. By living out Hoosier values, Dick Freeland made Fort Wayne and Indiana a better place. Christy and I are deeply saddened and our prayers are with his wife Deanna and his family.”
Senator Dan Coats had a few words about his colleague and friend:
“Dick Freeland was a long-time friend. His journey from the steel mills to running the most successful Pizza Hut franchise in the country is a remarkable story. Dick’s success as an entrepreneur was exceeded only by his generosity and philanthropy. The number of people Dick anonymously helped is little known but made an incredible impact on many lives. He will be missed, and our thoughts and prayers go out to Deanna and the Freeland family.”
Freeland was preceded in death by his daughter, Terri Derheimer, in 2009; his brother John, who died at age 10; and his half-brother, Fred Freeland Jr. In addition to his wife and children, survivors include his half-sister, Eleanor Mathis, of Broken Arrow, Okla; grandchildren Tyler Freeland, Dillon Freeland, Deanna Derheimer, Lindsay (Darin) Falk, Tiffany (Mike) Rego and Austin Freeland; and one great-grandchild, Connor Falk.