Tonawanda News


November 17, 2009

LIFESTYLE: Good things still brewin' for Tonawanda native Jon Luther

BUFFALO — Jon Luther might now be the pride of the City of Tonawanda, but it took him quite a while to ascend to the peak of his profession.

Luther, the 66-year-old executive chairman of the board of directors for Dunkin Brands — the company that owns the Dunkin Donuts name — started out on Gibson Street. His father returned from World War II to begin working at Remington Rand; his mother did beautician work out of their home to make ends meet.

During a recent sit-down interview, Luther recalled his childhood days growing up in the Tonawandas. As a preteen, he attended Fletcher, Delaware and Highland elementary schools, and he played Little League baseball in the city.

His grandfather, Clarence “Sam” Luther, was the city’s chief of police and a 40-year force veteran who enjoyed sharing stories about his efforts to combat bootleggers during the days of Prohibition. Luther also recalled playing football and baseball with Barney and Charlie Hewitt, whose parents owned the Tonawanda News for several decades, in the front yard of the Hewitt home near Mullen Street.

“There are Midwestern values here,” he said during the interview, which was conducted following a Dunkin Donuts press event at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. “This is the city of good neighbors. That stayed with me my whole life.”

Prior to starting the sixth grade, the Luther family moved to the Brighton-Colvin area of the Town of Tonawanda. He began working at a barbershop washing floors before even entering Kenmore East High School, and while enrolled there he manned the grill at Henry’s Hamburgers. This early taste of the food service industry ultimately served to whet his appetite for that profession.

“I sort of enjoyed the hospitality aspect of it, the interconnection with the customers,” he said.

After graduating from Ken East in 1961, Luther enrolled in the liberal arts program at Canisius College but decided after three semesters that he’d gone the wrong way on life’s path. He took on several odd jobs, including a position making deliveries for a local pharmacy; while working there, he met his future wife, Sharon Dickman, who was an original cheerleader for the Buffalo Bills.

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