Ron Joyce, who rose from a childhood marked by the Great Depression to co-found the Tim Hortons doughnut chain, has died at the age of 88.
The Nova Scotia native passed away peacefully Thursday at his home in Burlington, Ont., with his family at his side, the family said in a statement.
The cause of death was not immediately clear.
“My father had a big vision and a big heart. Through hard work, determination and drive, he built one of the most successful restaurant chains in Canada,” Steven Joyce said in a statement on behalf of the family.
“He never forgot his humble beginnings.”
Joyce was born in Tatamagouche in 1930, with two siblings to follow. The family moved to Westville, where his father struggled to find construction work due to the ripple effects of the Depression.
His father died in an accident when Joyce was three years old, while his mother was pregnant with their third child.
She moved the family back to Tatamagouche, where she bought a three-room house for $500 — half of the life insurance payment. Her other income came from a $20 monthly widow’s allowance.
The house had no running water, electricity or insulation. A wood-burning stove in the middle of the living room provided heat and was used for cooking and baking.
Joyce described this “modest upbringing” in his memoir Always Fresh: The Untold Story of Tim Hortons.
He did not complete high school, but left Tatamagouche for Hamilton, Ont., where he gained a varied employment history with time spent in factories, the navy and a police force, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia.
He went on to invest in the first Tim Hortons shop in Hamilton in 1964. He purchased that first restaurant for $10,000. He helped grow it into a successful chain and in 1995, the company opened its 1,000th store.
In 1967, Joyce and Tim Horton, the professional hockey player, became full partners in the company. When Horton died in a car accident in February 1974, Joyce became the sole owner, purchasing his deceased partner’s share for $1 million.
He sold the chain to Wendy’s International Inc. in 1996. It was later purchased by Burger King and the two brands became Restaurant Brands International in 2014.
“Ron was a larger-than-life friend who not only helped create one of Canada’s most iconic brands but was passionate about ensuring Tim Hortons always gave back to the community,” reads a statement signed from the Tim Hortons team.
He helped found the Tim Horton Children’s foundation, which pays to send underprivileged children to one of several Tim Hortons camps, including one near Tatamagouche, and runs youth programs. This year, the organization will send more than 19,000 kids to camp, according to its website.
He also founded The Joyce Family Foundation, which focuses on providing access to education for children and youth facing significant financial need or other barriers to success.
Joyce’s generosity “has been felt across the country,” said The Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, Ont., and its namesake foundation.
Joyce donated $7.5 million to support the hospital’s redevelopment and expansion.
He also gave large amounts of money to multiple universities. As of May 2017, his gifts to Atlantic Canadian colleges and universities alone totalled $52 million.
In 2000, Joyce opened the Fox Harb’r Golf Resort and Spa near Wallace, Cumberland County.
The five-star, gated resort has its own airport and is a large employer for the area.
“I was saddened to hear of the passing of Mr. Joyce,” Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said in a statement.
“From a small community in Nova Scotia, he went on to co-found an iconic Canadian business. His generosity was also well known and made a difference in the lives of many.
“I offer my condolences to his family and all those who cared about him.”
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Ron Joyce, the Tatamagouche-born entrepreneur who would go on to co-found Tim Horton’s is dead.
He was 88.
Mike Gregory, the Colchester County councillor for the Tatamagouche area, said he was not aware of the cause of Joyce’s death, but he had heard that he had recently been in the hospital.
“He hadn’t been well,” Gregory said.
Joyce, who owned the luxury golf resort Fox Harb’r, was born in Tatamagouche in 1930. He left the village, as a young man, for Hamilton, Ont., where he still kept his regular home.
Despite numerous entrepreneurial successes, Joyce became most famous for his expansion of the Tim Horton’s coffee and doughnut franchise under the TDL Group, one of the most successful food service chains in the world.
That success stemmed from his initial investment in the first Tim Hortons doughnut shop in Hamilton, Ont., in 1964. After overseeing the buildup of the Tim Hortons empire, Joyce sold his shares to the burger chain Wendy’s International Inc. in 1996.
Despite the overall success of Tim Hortons, however, Joyce did not want to see one his restaurants interfere with the small-business interests in his home village and long ago vowed there would never be a franchise in Tatamagouche.
“I heard that long ago that there would never be a Tim Horton’s in Tatamagouche as long as he lived,” Gregory said.
“He was a pretty generous guy, there was no doubt about it. He never forgot his roots, never forgot where he came from.”
Gregory said he believed Joyce was living in Hamilton at the time of his death. He also had homes in Alberta and Nova Scotia.
According to information on his foundation website, Joyce has won numerous awards and honours for his entrepreneurial successes as well as for his “commitment to strong corporate citizenship and unwavering philanthropic work.”
Joyce was also dedicated to helping underprivileged children and youth, as evidenced by the Tim Hortons Children’s Foundation’s six youth camps, (including one in Tatamagouche) that are spread across Canada. A seventh camp is located in Kentucky, U.S.
Joyce was an Order of Canada recipient as well as having been inducted the Canadian Business Hall of Fame.
Other acknowledgements noted on the foundation’s website include; Entrepreneur of the Year for Ontario and Canada; the Gary Wright Humanitarian Award in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the betterment of community life as founder of the Tim Hortons Children’s Foundation; and the Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year Award.
“His achievements have also earned him several awards as Philanthropist of the Year, and honorary doctoral degrees from Canadian universities including McMaster, Queen’s, Mount Allison, Saint Mary’s, Cape Breton, and the University of Calgary and University of New Brunswick,” the website says.
The site said Joyce had remained actively involved in The Joyce Family Foundation, as well as his Hamilton-based executive charter airline company, Jetport and that he had divided his time between his homes in Alberta, Ontario, and Nova Scotia.