Love's Founder Tom Love Passes Away

He and his wife Judy entered the business with a single service station in 1964.
Love's founder Tom Love

OKLAHOMA CITY — Tom Love, who founded the family-owned and -operated Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores with his wife and business partner Judy, passed away in his hometown of Oklahoma City on March 7. He was 85.

Serving as the company's executive chair until his death, Love was known for his humility, good-natured disposition, generosity and helpfulness toward others.

"Tom Love was a man of conviction who never wavered from the principles of honesty and integrity in the 59 years he spent developing the company he started with his wife, Judy," said Shane Wharton, president of Love's. "These tenets still guide our company and will as we move forward. Tom always listened and was sincerely interested in knowing the stories of employees and customers.

"He wanted to hear their thoughts, ideas and hopes for them, their families and the company. He credited the company's success to the people who worked for us. He could relate to all employees but had a soft spot for those on the frontline at stores. In many respects, he was an ordinary person who built an extraordinary business alongside his wife Judy and his family, who he loved deeply," Wharton said.

Love is survived by Judy, his wife of 62 years; his children Frank, Greg, Jenny and Laura; nine grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren, with two more on the way.

"We are deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved husband, father and grandfather," the Love family said in a statement. "He loved people, and that was evident in how he guided our family, operated the business he started in 1964 and gave back to our community and organizations across the country that serve others. He was always committed to helping others succeed and opening the door for leaders, including his children and grandchildren, and we look forward to building upon his legacy. While the grief we feel is unmeasurable, we celebrate his life and will continue his legacy of living a life filled with integrity, honesty and faith."

Judy & Tom Love


Born in Oklahoma City in 1937, Love attended St. Gregory's Preparatory School in Shawnee, Okla., and St. John's University in Minnesota, before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1954. He and Judy married in 1960.

In 1964, Tom and Judy love spent $5,000 to lease an abandoned service station in the small, rural town of Watonga, northwest of Oklahoma City. Then named the Musket Corp., their company grew from one store to 40 locations across western Oklahoma in eight years. Love's keen vision and sense for business resulted in the establishment of a new concept, the country store, that combined grocery and convenience store business models with a self-service gas station. In 1971, Tom's Country Store in Guymon, Okla., became the first store in the country to combine self-service gasoline and grocery items.

This original country store featured self-service gasoline, grocery and dairy items, and offered extended hours, seven days a week. The new store modeled eventually helped Love's to emerge as one of the most successful private businesses in America.

The company opened its first travel stop along Interstate 40 in Amarillo, Texas, in 1981, catering to professional drivers and the motoring public who sought convenience and efficiency when traveling across the country. Over the years, Love's expanded its services to include fresh and hot food items, truck care maintenance and warm showers.

Love's has flourished under Tom and his family's leadership, opening its 600th location in October 2022. The Love's Family of Companies has also grown to include businesses focused on truck maintenance, logistics, commodity supply and alternative energies.

Convenience Store News spotlighted Tom and Judy Love among the most 50 influential people in the convenience store industry in 2019.

Love's Travel Stops


Throughout his nearly six decades of leading the company, Tom was adamant about serving others and putting people first. His vision for establishing a nationwide network of "Clean Places, Friendly Faces" became a company-wide motto that embodies his customer-first approach. His passion for serving others also resonated in his personal life and friendships.

"Tom was a dear friend who I often turned to for advice," said former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating. "He was a visionary, innovator, inspirational leader and compassionate person. Tom was a quintessential entrepreneur long before entrepreneurialism was ever in vogue. He loved his country, having served in the Marine Corps. He loved his hometown of Oklahoma City, where he headquartered his business.

"Tom loved his state and responded with alacrity and superb skill when he accepted my appointment as chairman of the Oklahoma Transportation Commission. He was devoted to his dear wife, Judy, their four wonderful children, and many grand and great-grandchildren. He was committed to his faith, and he gave generously, but often quietly, to support education, medical and other significant initiatives. Cathy and I are heartbroken at his loss, but we are encouraged to know Tom's legacy will live on through his family, company and countless kind deeds," Keating added.

Friend and former Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Turpin stated that Tom "represented the finest of our Oklahoma values of humility, honesty, compassion and service" and "always showed an abundance of goodness and kindness."

Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby reflected on attributes that led to Tom being inducted into the Chickasaw Hall of Fame.

"With deep sadness, we acknowledge the passing of a distinguished Chickasaw Nation citizen, Tom Love," Anoatubby said. "In 2019, it was my great privilege on behalf of the Nation to induct Tom into our Hall of Fame, the highest honor we can bestow upon one of our citizens. The induction recognized Tom's immeasurable contributions to the advancement and betterment of the Chickasaw Nation. Tom embodied the values we cherish — honesty, trust, respect and service. He was generous with his time and resources. We enjoyed and cherished his friendship. We will surely miss him. As a Nation, we extend our condolences to Judy and the family. You will be in our hearts and prayers."

Tom's enthusiasm for sports led to Love's entering a partnership with the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder. The Love's logo is displayed prominently on the front left shoulder of Thunder jerseys. The logo was also front and center with NASCAR Cup Series team Front Row Motorsports when Michael McDowell drove the Love's-sponsored car into Victory Lane at the Daytona 500 in 2021.

His passion for service and helping those in his community led to the Love family donating to local and national organizations such as Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, United Way, Catholic Charities, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma (OU). In 2018, OU opened the Tom Love Innovation Hub to provide a space for future entrepreneurs and other workforce development programs.

The university also recently broke ground on Love's Field, future home of the six-time national champion Sooner softball team. Finally, Tom's legacy will carry on at the Love Family Women's Center on the campus of Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City and Science Museum Oklahoma's new planetarium that will be named Love's Planetarium.

Tom's many honors include Corporation of the Year in 1991 and the 1996 President's Award for Service to God and Country. He was selected as Oklahoma's Most Admired CEO in 2010 and receive a Trust Guardian Transportation Award in 2014. A Chickasaw citizen, Tom was inducted into the Chickasaw Hall of Fame in 2019 and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2000.

Founded in 1964 and headquartered in Oklahoma City, Love's Travel Stops has a network of 600 locations in 42 states, along with 430 truck service centers under the Speedco and Love's Truck Care names.

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