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Remembering Lois Thompson

Industry mourns founder of Hiawatha Chef Supply.

Lois Thompson, founder of Hiawatha Chef Supply, Inc. has passed away. She was 85 years old.

Thompson started Hiawatha Chef Supply, an Escanaba, Mich.-based foodservice equipment and supplies dealership, in 1955, in partnership with Doug Wescott, a schoolmate and co-worker at another foodservice equipment dealership. Wescott left the business in 1956 to pursue a career in education and, in 1958, Lois married Ralph Thompson, a factory representative she'd met when he called on her at the store.

Together Lois and Ralph continued to grow the business, expanding its product line to include not just commercial foodservice equipment and supplies, but also janitorial equipment and supplies, chemicals, paper and disposables.

"Nothing — neither the dissolution of the original partnership or getting married and having a family — dissuaded her," wrote editor Russ Carpenter about Lois in the July 1974 edition of the Dealer, as FE&S was known at the time. "In 19 years, she has created a rock-solid business that's thriving, and shows every indication of continued growth."

Ralph Thompson died in 1987 and Lois retired eight years later. The business remains in the family as its ownership was transferred to their sons Terry and Tracy in 1995.

Lois is survived by her sons and by her daughter, Candace Oslund of Spalding, Mich., their three spouses, her 13 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.