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Entrepreneur and philanthropist Warren Rosenthal dies at age 96; visitation, funeral services are Monday

Staff report

Warren Rosenthal who served 5-cent hamburgers at his first 8-seat Jerry’s Restaurant in Lexington in 1948, built a lifetime of business successes and community service, leaving an amazing legacy in the Commonwealth.

He died Saturday at the age of 96.

He built his fast-food enterprises by expanding Jerry’s, starting a “fast fish” restaurant chain, Long John Silver’s, and his latest innovation Fazoli’s (fast Italian food) through his parent company, Jerrico Inc. which he took to the NY Stock Exchange in 1969.

Warren Rosenthal

He established the Rosenthal Foundation which made significant philanthropic gifts to cause he and his family believed in.

Born in Paducah in 1923, he was one of two children of Lucille and Govriel Rosenthal. They and his brother, Govriel, predeceased him. His wife Betty, predeceased him; his daughter, Carol Rosenthal, granddaughters, Beth (Jason) Pitman and Jenny Veal, and three great-grandchildren, Mallory, Lucie and Wyatt Pitman, survive him.

Rosenthal served on the corporate boards of Office Suites Plus, Immunomedics, Inc., and, for 20-years, Kentucky Utilities, Inc.

In 1989, bored after just 32-days of retirement, Warren, with friends and partners, Ralph Gabbard and Glenn Pennington, “saved” the Renfro Valley Entertainment Center which had fallen into difficult financial times after popular, pre WW 2 “Barn Dance” radio broadcasts. The “Renfro Valley Experience” with Betty and Warren started with Rosenthal behind the wheel for a speed-limit blast down Interstate 75 and then being introduced and shaking hands with everyone who worked there. In July, 2000, Warren and Betty donated Renfro Valley to the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame Museum.   

When Rosenthal and his wife purchased Patchen Wilkes Farm, they knew this farm was something special: the home of the rarest Pure White Thoroughbreds.  With farm manager, Barry Ezrine, they both dramatically increased the breed and earned national recognition. One of Warren’s big smiles was there whenever one of his “White Patchen Beauties” raced at Keeneland and other local tracks. What the white thoroughbreds lacked in speed was compensated by the excitement of racing fans. Warren was awarded the W.T. Young Award from the Kentucky Owners and Breeder’s Association in 2014 for this contribution.

There is a long list of educational, civic and charitable awards. But there is also a long list of organizations for which the Rosenthals were major benefactors.  Warren said his greatest joy was giving back to his community and Commonwealth. He also said that it was his duty.  

Rosenthal’s office manager and family confidant, Jane Thorne, oversees their fulfillment.

These gifts would include supporting programs in the cities of Lexington and Paducah, as well as The Commonwealth; Sayre School, Lexington Theological Seminary and the Universities of Kentucky and Transylvania; Junior Achievement; the Kentucky Historical Society; City of Hope; Children’s Advocacy Center; Camp Horsin’ Around, the Heart Association; The Child Development Center of the Bluegrass, and Temple Adath Israel.  

Visitation will be Monday, October 21, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. followed by a service at 1 p.m. at Temple Adath Israel, 124 N. Ashland Ave.  

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the charity of your choice.

Staff report and Milward Funeral Home.  


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