Growing up as a small-town farm boy in Colwich, Kansas, I was always surrounded by the values of hard work and patriotism. I remember trying to enlist for the infantry in the U.S. Army with some friends as soon as we heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, only to be denied admittance because I was 16 at the time. I began my military career after finishing high school, starting out as an army private and training at Fort Riley.
We fought in the Philippines against the Japanese where I received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star awards. The Purple Heart came from a situation after we took the Manila Hotel and an artillery barrage hit us. I was hit in the leg with shrapnel and I thought, “This is it. They’re going to send me home.” Instead, they field-dressed my wounds and sent me right back to the front line. The award I’m most proud of is the Bronze Star that was given to me for the Battle of Leyte. During the intense fighting, a sniper bullet struck me but, fortunately, lodged in my ammo clip, only giving me a slight burn. My service in the military holds some of the most memorable moments in my life, and it’s where I met some of my closest friends.
After the war ended in 1945, I attended Wichita State University and graduated with a degree in accounting. Afterward, I worked as an accountant at a wholesale liquor distribution company and eventually moved up to become president. I spent a total of 56 years with the company. Though it was always a dream of mine to have my own burger joint, I never found the chance or the right timing. Raising my five sons and one daughter along with my full-time career kept me pretty busy.
In 2002, my sons Bill and Randy, along with their business partner and friend Scott Redler, got together and opened the restaurant I’ve always wanted. They built the foundation of the restaurant on the family values, insistence on hospitality and high-quality food, and tradition of service with which I was raised. Our menu even features thinly pressed steakburgers, just like the ones my dad used to make on the farm.
I felt humbled when I found out they would name the restaurant after me. We never planned on more than just the one Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers in Wichita, but now there are 274 restaurants across 30 states that feature my name and face! In addition to being involved with Freddy’s, I’ve spoken to over 50 high school and college history classes to share my experience during World War II, and the values of freedom and defending our country.
My wife Norma Jean and I also just celebrated our 70th anniversary this past summer. Being able to come home safely from the war, build a wonderful family and have a growing restaurant chain named after me are all reasons why I consider myself the luckiest man in the world.
Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers is located near the Chandler Fashion Center at 3476 W. Frye Road. Learn more about Freddy and explore the menu at FreddysUSA.com.