FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21ALIVE) --- Indiana's governor paid tribute Tuesday to a Fort Wayne businessman he called one of the state's great success stories of the 20th century.
The comments came during funeral services for Pizza Hut restaurant owner Dick Freeland.
The 76-year old Freeland over his lifetime made lots of money, but shared his wealth, and made a lasting impression on the people he poured himself into.
They came by the hundreds to The Chapel to pay final respects to Freeland.
He made millions in the pizza business, but it came from humble beginnings.
The Iowa native started as an ironworker, making $4.00 an hour.
Yet, it was a part-time job he took at a Pizza Hut for $1.25 an hour, so he could pay off a debt, which radically re-defined his future.
In 1972, he borrowed money from his dad to start a Pizza Hut of his own in Fort Wayne.
Some 40 years later, the empire grew to 52 restaurants owned in Indiana and Ohio.
In 1980, he had the first Pizza Hut to earn a million dollars in sales.
He operated the highest volume Pizza Huts in the U.S. for 39 of the past 41 years.
" Dick always told me that he had Pizza Hut sauce in his veins, and well, he made sure that everyone of you in Fort Wayne do as well," said David Novak, a national Pizza Hut executive who spoke at the funeral.
Freeland's fortune was never something kept stowed away in his personal bank account.
He poured cash into political candidates and causes he supported locally and nationally, pursuing a passion for philanthropy that rarely grabbed headlines.
" Dick Freeland was a great man and he lived a great life, but not unto himself," said Governor Pence.
Cancer robbed Freeland of his strength and life, but it couldn't rob him of a legacy that carries on in a big way.
A picture displayed on a slide show at the funeral showed Freeland shaking hands with former President Ronald Reagan.
He was close friends with a number of powerful people.
There was speculation that former President George H.W. Bush, or former Vice-President Dan Quayle might attend the funeral.
They did not, but it doesn't diminish the Freeland footprint on the local and national scene.
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