Family, friends and business associates will pay their final respects today to longtime Omaha restaurateur John A. Chisholm of Omaha.
The 64-year-old died unexpectedly Sunday at Methodist Hospital after a stroke, said his wife, Amy Chisholm of Omaha. They had been married 25 years.
A funeral Mass for Chisholm will begin at 1:30 p.m. today at Christ the King Catholic Church, 654 S. 86th St.
He began his restaurant career in Omaha in 1976 when he and Jim Morrissey formed Rigel Corp. At its peak, their firm owned franchises for KFC, Godfather's Pizza, Bruegger's Bagels, the one-time B. Piggs, Julio's and Krispy Kreme in Nebraska, Iowa, the Dakotas and Arizona.
Rigel was an early and large franchisee of Godfather's. At one point, Rigel had more than 100 of the pizza company's franchises, Amy Chisholm said.
Willy Theisen, who started Godfather's in 1973, was a close friend of John Chisholm.
“We had a great business relationship. It goes back 35 years,” Theisen said. “He was just a delightful guy and a great businessman. I admired him.”
Rigel sold its restaurants, Amy Chisholm said, and the company filed for bankruptcy in 2006.
Her husband also had formed a separate business, Rigel Airport Services, with Brian Bartling. It remains an active company.
“Brian pretty much ran the airport business,” said Amy Chisholm, and her husband had semiretired.
John Chisholm received many honors for his career. In 2003, he was inducted into the Omaha Hospitality Hall of Fame. He was the Nebraska Restaurant Association's 1996 Restaurateur of the Year and was the Omaha association's 1995 Restaurateur of the Year.
Chisholm also served on a number of boards, including the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Habitat for Humanity of Omaha, Share Our Strength and Brush Up Nebraska.
He served on other boards for which he also was an officer: the Nebraska Restaurant Association, chairman in 2001 and 2002; Omaha Restaurant Association, chairman in 1995, Creighton University Jaybacker Executive Board, chairman in 2001 and 2002; Omaha Airport Authority Board, chairman in 1997.
In 2003, Creighton gave Chisholm its Jaybacker of the Year award. “He loved Creighton basketball,” his wife said.
Chisholm grew up in Mokena, Ill., graduated with a business degree from the University of Iowa in 1969 and then entered the Air Force. He served four years, including a year in Vietnam. Chisholm's last military assignment was at Offutt Air Force Base.
Besides his wife, other survivors include son Scott and daughter Lauren, both of Omaha.
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