Widow of McDonald’s Founder Dies at 75

Kroc’s donations created Notre Dame’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies in 1986 and the University of San Diego’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice in 2001. She was also a major benefactor of the Carter Center in Atlanta.

Yahoo!News
October 13, 2003

Widow of McDonald’s Founder Dies at 75
Elliot Spagatt

SAN DIEGO - Joan B. Kroc, a billionaire who gave generously to health care, peace and arts groups and became the owner of the San Diego Padres after the death of her husband, McDonald's Corp. founder Ray Kroc, has died of brain cancer.

Kroc, who died Sunday at age 75, took over the Padres baseball team when her husband died in 1984 at age 81. She remained a high-profile owner until selling the franchise in 1990.

"For someone who wasn't really into baseball, she had a lot of enthusiasm and passion as an owner," said manager Bruce Bochy.

Her first passion, however, was philanthropy, and it is estimated that Kroc, whose net worth was placed at $1.7 billion, gave away hundreds of millions.

"She was a woman of generous spirit and a loving heart," said former San Diego Mayor Maureen O'Connor.

She gave generously to causes promoting world peace, education, health care, cancer research, the arts and the fight against AIDS, and provided help for the Midwest when it was devastated by floods in the 1990s.

When 21 people were killed July 18, 1984, in a shooting rampage at a McDonald's in San Ysidro, Kroc started a relief fund for victims' families the very next day, donating $100,000. McDonald's added $1 million.

Kroc's donations created Notre Dame's Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies in 1986 and the University of San Diego's Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice in 2001. She was also a major benefactor of the Carter Center in Atlanta.

She contributed $12 million to establish the Notre Dame center after hearing the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, then president of the university, warn about the arms race at a San Diego talk in 1985.

"She walked up to him after the talk and said, 'I'm going to help you,'" said Scott Appleby, the center's director. "She was a passionate champion of peace and justice and she was single-minded in her dedication to eliminating the threat of nuclear weapons and all forms of deadly violence."

The University of San Diego think tank has worked to broker peace in Nepal, Madagascar and the Ivory Coast, said Joyce Neu, executive director, who pegged Kroc's donations to the center at more than $30 million.

Kroc also contributed more than $90 million to the Salvation Army for a 12 1/2-acre arts and recreation center in east San Diego, said Maj. Cindy Foley, the center's administrator.

"She worried that there were children and families who didn't have an opportunity to discover their talents because of a lack of facilities," said Foley. "She embodied the word generosity."

Born Aug. 27, 1928, in St. Paul, Minn., Kroc was a musician and music teacher for many years. She married Ray Kroc, who had founded McDonald's in 1955, in 1969; it was her second marriage and his third.

The couple moved from Chicago to San Diego in 1976, two years after purchasing the Padres and preventing the team's planned move to Washington, D.C.

Although she admitted to knowing nothing about baseball when she took over in 1984, she quickly learned as her team made it to the World Series in her first year as owner. When the team clinched the National League pennant, star relief pitcher Goose Gossage celebrated by her tossing her into a swimming pool.

She sold the team in 1990, saying she wanted to spend more time with her family.

"I'm a few years older now, and, unlike Zsa Zsa (Gabor), I'm not ashamed to admit that I'll be 62 next August," she said in a 1989 interview. "I think it's time to prioritize."

Kroc is survived by a daughter, four granddaughters and four great-grandchildren.


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