OKLAHOMA CITY — Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores founder Tom Love died on Tuesday, March 7, in Oklahoma City. He was 85.
Tom is survived by his wife of 62 years and co-founder of Love’s, Judy, his children Frank, Greg, Jenny and Laura, nine grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and two more on the way.
His cause of death wasn’t released.
“Tom Love was a man of conviction who never wavered from the principles of honesty and integrity in the 59 years he spent developing the company he started with his wife, Judy,” Shane Wharton, president of Love’s, said. “These tenets still guide our company and will as we move forward. Tom always listened and was sincerely interested in knowing the stories of employees and customers. He wanted to hear their thoughts, ideas and hopes for them, their families and the company. He credited the company’s success to the people who worked for us. He could relate to all employees but had a soft spot for those on the frontline at stores. In many respects, he was an ordinary person who built an extraordinary business alongside his wife Judy and his family, who he loved deeply.”
In a statement, the Love family said that they are “deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved husband, father and grandfather. He loved people, and that was evident in how he guided our family, operated the business he started in 1964 and gave back to our community and organizations across the country that serve others. He was always committed to helping others succeed and opening the door for leaders, including his children and grandchildren, and we look forward to building upon his legacy. While the grief we feel is unmeasurable, we celebrate his life and will continue his legacy of living a life filled with integrity, honesty and faith.”
Born in 1937 in Oklahoma City, Love attended St. Gregory’s Preparatory School in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and St. John’s University in Minnesota, before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1954. He met Judy in 1960, according to a Love’s news release.
In 1964, Tom and Judy Love used $5,000 to lease an abandoned service station in Watonga, a small rural town northwest of Oklahoma City. Beginning as Musket Corporation, they opened 40 stores in eight years in western Oklahoma.
Love established existing business models for grocery and convenience stores with a self-service gas station to create the country store concept. His country store in Guymon, Oklahoma, became the first store in the nation to combine self-service gasoline and grocery items.
Under Tom’s leadership, Love’s opened its first travel stop on Interstate 40 in Amarillo, Texas, in 1981, catering to professional truck drivers and the motoring public, the news release noted. Throughout the decades, Love’s has expanded its services to include hot and fresh food items, truck care maintenance and warm showers.
Love’s opened its 600th location in October 2022. The Love’s Family of Companies has grown to include businesses focused on truck maintenance, logistics, commodity supply and alternative energies.
Love led the company for 59 years with his personal vision for establishing a nationwide network of “Clean Places, Friendly Faces” is a company-wide motto that embodies his customer-first approach.
“Tom was a dear friend who I often turned to for advice,” Former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating said. “He was a visionary, innovator, inspirational leader and compassionate person. Tom was a quintessential entrepreneur long before entrepreneurialism was ever in vogue. He loved his country, having served in the Marine Corps. He loved his hometown of Oklahoma City, where he headquartered his business. Tom loved his state and responded with alacrity and superb skill when he accepted my appointment as chairman of the Oklahoma Transportation Commission. He was devoted to his dear wife, Judy, their four wonderful children, and many grand and great-grandchildren. He was committed to his faith, and he gave generously, but often quietly, to support education, medical and other significant initiatives. Cathy and I are heartbroken at his loss, but we are encouraged to know Tom’s legacy will live on through his family, company and countless kind deeds.”
Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby recalled the attributes that led to Love being inducted into the Chickasaw Hall of Fame.
“With deep sadness, we acknowledge the passing of a distinguished Chickasaw Nation citizen, Tom Love,” Anoatubby said. “In 2019, it was my great privilege on behalf of the Nation to induct Tom into our Hall of Fame, the highest honor we can bestow upon one of our citizens. The induction recognized Tom’s immeasurable contributions to the advancement and betterment of the Chickasaw Nation. Tom embodied the values we cherish – honesty, trust, respect and service. He was generous with his time and resources. We enjoyed and cherished his friendship. We will surely miss him. As a Nation, we extend our condolences to Judy and the family. You will be in our hearts and prayers.”
Love’s enthusiasm for sports led the company to enter a partnership with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Love’s logo is displayed prominently on the front left shoulder of Oklahoma City Thunder jerseys. The logo was also on display at the NASCAR Cup Series team Front Row Motorsports when Michael McDowell drove the Love’s-sponsored car into Victory Lane at the Daytona 500 in 2021.
Under Love’s leadership, the Love family has donated to local and national organizations such as Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, United Way, Catholic Charities, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma. In 2018, OU opened the Tom Love Innovation Hub to provide a space for future entrepreneurs and other workforce development programs. The university recently broke ground on Love’s Field – the future home of the six-time national champion Sooner softball team. The Love Family Women’s Center on the campus of Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City and Science Museum Oklahoma’s new state-of-the-art planetarium that will be named Love’s Planetarium.
Love received many honors, including Corporation of the Year in 1991 and the 1996 President’s Award for Service to God and Country. He was chosen as Oklahoma’s Most Admired CEO in 2010 and Trust Guardian Transportation Award in 2014. A Chickasaw citizen, Tom was inducted into the Chickasaw Hall of Fame in 2019 and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2000.
The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.
God bless Tom Love and his family. THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR SUPPORTING US TRUCKERS WE LOVE YOU
Great business man.
Love the store and the shop.
Love the employees and the culture.
The only criticism is small parking lots for truckers