Jim Pilcher, 1918-2012: Restaurant owner built local homes


Jim Pilcher, a former owner and executive of the Frisch’s Big Boy restaurant chain and a home builder, died Wednesday in Hope Hospice, Cape Coral, Fla. He was 93.

Mr. Pilcher, formerly of Perrysburg, had heart problems and was recovering from pneumonia, his son, Jim, Jr., said.

He moved to North Fort Myers, Fla., about 30 years ago and was an owner in Clancey’s, a restaurant in Fort Myers run by his son.

He visited at least weekly, worked on Clancey’s finances, and was looking forward to casting his presidential vote for Mitt Romney.

“He was completely self-sufficient,” his son said.

Mr. Pilcher in the 1980s sold his interest in Frisch’s to Bennett Enterprises. He, along with Oliver and Richard Lones and David and Milton Bennett, helped bring the Frisch’s operation to northwest Ohio.

Mr. Pilcher, the director of operations, was in the news for Big Boy grand openings as the chain expanded across the region. Day by day, he made sure the stores ran smoothly and profitably.

“That was his forte: the restaurants; working with people, and just getting better and better,” his son said. “He was a perfectionist. Everything had to be the way he said.

“He liked people. He influenced people. He showed them the right way to do things. People called him as late as two weeks ago saying, ‘Thank you for showing me the right way to live,’ ” his son said.

Wanda and Willis Wagner rose through the ranks at Frisch’s. She started as a car hop and became a store manager; he retired as a vice president.

“He was very tough, very fair. Everything had a system,” Mr. Wagner said. “He’s been my best friend.”

Mr. Pilcher and the Wagners, now of Pigeon Forge, Tenn., stayed in touch and visited regularly. They liked to go to yard sales and once, several years ago, went Dumpster diving.

“He was funny. His life was full of humor,” Mr. Wagner said. “He was a great fella. You’d never know he had a nickel.”

Mr. Pilcher and the Lones brothers owned a homebuilding firm from 1950 to 1955. An addition of homes in Perrysburg is named for Mr. Pilcher.

He was born Dec. 21, 1918, to Fleata and Dan Pilcher and grew up in Indiana and Toledo.

He was in the Army Air Corps during World War II and served in the Pacific Theater, retrieving and repairing planes damaged or downed in combat.

Afterward, he was a supervisor at the Electric Auto-Lite Co., supporting his wife and children plus his mother and a grandmother, his son said. He was a world traveler. His favorite way to see the nation, even up to Alaska, was by recreational vehicle, his son said.

“He concentrated on work, and work was his life,” his son said. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing. He loved what he did.”

He was formerly married to the late Amelia Pilcher. Surviving are his son, Jim, Jr.; two grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

He was cremated and at his request there will be no services, his son said. The family suggests tributes to Hope Hospice, Cape Coral, Fla.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182