John Booe, the son of Rebecca Ruth Candy's co-founder who took over the company after his mother's death, died Monday. He was 85.
Although he sold the business to his son, Charles, in the late 1990s, Mr. Booe continued working for Rebecca Ruth until late last year.
"He came into work every day," Charles Booe said Friday. "He did almost all the invoicing on the computer right up until November."
It wasn't originally John Booe's plan to take over the candy company. He was working a white-collar job with DuPont in Delaware when his mother's strength began to fail in 1964.
Mr. Booe told the Herald-Leader in the late 1980s that he came home to Frankfort because the company that his mother helped found "was too good of a thing just to let it die."
"I had a family obligation, is what it amounted to," he said at the time.
His mother, Ruth Hanly, and her friend, Rebecca Gooch, founded Rebecca Ruth in 1919. The two were single women, substitute schoolteachers bored by teaching. They had made a reputation in Frankfort for their unique candy, in which bourbon was a key ingredient. When Prohibition closed the bar at the Old Frankfort Hotel, the hotel manager offered them the use of the barroom as a candy kitchen.
In 1929, Gooch sold the business to Hanly, who by then had married Douglas Booe.
When Mrs. Booe died in 1973, John Booe inherited two-thirds of Rebecca Ruth. In the late 1970s, he bought out a cousin and became sole owner.
"You could say he brought it into the modern era to an extent," Charles Booe said of his father. "He was very interested in making only changes that would protect the quality of our products."
One of Mr. Booe's legacies was the addition of more liquor chocolates to go with the bourbon ball.
"He came out with a classic liquor assortment that we still do today," Charles Booe said.
As Charles went to work for his father, "he tried to allow me the flexibility to learn lessons, if you will."
"He was pretty easygoing, really. He was very strict, though, about quality issues, and he was very strict about customer issues," Charles Booe said. "I think that he tried to instill a value that you had to be honest with customers and real forthright.
"I'd say he tried to instill values on me as much as anything, and I don't necessarily mean business values."
Mr. Booe's funeral was Thursday.