Nashville’s mainstay meat-and-three Dairy King lost its patriarch July 3.
Dudley “Big Daddy” Jones died of a stroke. He was 87 years old.
In those 87 years, the talkative Nashville native’s stories ranged from playing baseball at Hume-Fogg High School, to battling Chinese communists in minus-30-degree weather, to decades of cheering on Glencliff High School at basketball games.
Donning a Korean veterans baseball cap, the 6-foot-4 man “had this spirit about him that made you want to sit and listen,” said his oldest grandson, Brad Jones.
He and Thelma, his wife of almost 65 years, purchased then burger and ice cream joint Dairy King in 1970. It was 20 years after he served in the Korean War with the Marines, and after more than a decade working in the auto industry.
The couple transformed the restaurant into a meat and three and began selling its popular treat, chocolate fried pies. The small building on East Thompson Lane became a fixture in the family and the community.
“When I was 5 or 6 years old, I used to ride around with him and I thought he was the pope,” Brad Jones said, “because everywhere we went in Woodbine or Berry Hill or South Nashville, anywhere in that area, people would say ‘Hey Big Daddy, Hey Big D, Hey Dudley,’ and he knew everyone.”
Mr. Jones was also passionate about sports, especially at Lipscomb and Glencliff high schools.
“Even in the last year and half, I’d receive a call probably three times a week from him to make sure I was on the right channel watching the Lady Vols or Vanderbilt,” said Glenn Falls, a friend and Glencliff coach.
He and Thelma Jones would also make sure the community was well fed.
“They would take care of those coaches up there (at Glencliff) when it came to food and the kids,” said friend Joe Biddle.
While Mr. Jones’ son, Jeff, took over the restaurant in 2000, Mr. Jones continued to greet and chat with customers almost daily.
“He never met a stranger,” Biddle said, thinking back to his first encounter with Mr. Jones at a game at Lipscomb in the late 1990s, which Dairy King catered. Later that day, he went to the restaurant.
Mr. Jones handed a chocolate fried pie to Biddle and said, ” ‘Here, eat it. It’ll change your life.’ And he was right because I started gaining weight,” Biddle said.
While the pies changed the lives of some Nashvillians, many would say he changed theirs.
Mr. Jones is survived by his wife, Thelma; children Philip, Jeff and Tim; 11 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.
The funeral service was Monday afternoon at Hickory Chapel, 5852 Nolensville Pike. Burial is at Woodlawn Cemetery off Thompson Lane.