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A Quiet Strength: Behind the Scenes of Chick-fil-A

Cover Story

      
S. Truett & Jeannette Cathy
When Chick-fil-A first opened in 1946, founder S. Truett Cathy was 27 years old and his wife Jeannette was only 25 years old.

Truett Cathy founded one of the largest fast food restaurant chains in America, Chick-fil-A, in 1946. Do you recognize the name Jeannette M. Cathy? Wife to Truett Cathy, Jeannette played a very important role in Chick-fil-A’s success, albeit mostly behind the scenes. Trudy Cathy White watched her mother provide their family with a quiet strength grounded in faith. “She was very committed, passionate and full of compassion for people. My mother was an encourager and a real prayer warrior.” The impact of her mother was so strong, White felt compelled to share her legacy with others in her latest book A Quiet Strength: The Life and Legacy of Jeannette M. Cathy. Although Jeannette passed away in 2015, Trudy Cathy White believes her impact will be felt for generations to come.

 Surprising Facts. White shares that her mother had a difficult childhood. She never knew her earthly father because he left the family when Jeannette was only three months old. However, at a very young age, Jeannette was introduced to her heavenly Father. “My mom had a very vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ, and she was totally captivated by the idea that she could have a Father and that He would be a perfect Father to her.” Jeannette had a unique childhood because her mother was a talented seamstress and as her daughter, she spent countless hours growing up backstage in the Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia. Jeannette was able to achieve her dream of attending college and seminary thanks to ladies from her church who put their money together to make it happen. “She continued that learning spirit. She was a lifelong learner but was rarely in the spotlight,” says White. Her mom became a self-taught artist at the age of 65.

Jeannette Cathy Painting
Jeannette M. Cathy became a self-taught artist at the age of 65. Her daughter, Trudy Cathy White, explains that her mother was an encourager and prayer warrior that lived a Christ-centered life until she passed away at the age of 92.

Jeannette’s Legacy as a Mother & Wife. White shares that her mother taught her children the importance of building their lives on what mattered most- Jesus. “My mother always reminded us that we needed to know who we were and whose we were.” She also knew the importance of taking time to be still before the Lord. As a child, White remembers finding her mother reading her Bible and praying often, even during a busy day. “Everything in her life taught me what it meant to walk with the Lord.” Jeannette also played a critical support role as the wife of Truett Cathy. “While Dad was focused on building the business, Mom was focused on building the family.” White adds that her mother cared deeply for others from all walks of life and nurtured a positive attitude. “She was the type of person that when it rained, she would get out her brightest umbrella.”

Trudy Cathy White Family portrait with husband kids grandkids
Trudy Cathy White and her husband John have been married for 40 years and have four children and fifteen grandchildren. The couple served as overseas missionaries for 10 years and later co-founded LifeShape, a ministry committed to restoring children at risk, cultivating servant leaders and discipling the nations. They also cofounded Impact 360 Institute which offers life-changing experiences that help students live out their faith with confidence. The program includes worldview studies, experiential learning, international travel and leadership training.

Chick-fil-A Business Principles. Both of White’s parents modeled perseverance. “You can, with God” was a phrase that her mother often said. She shares that her father’s second restaurant burned to the ground, but he didn’t let that challenge stop him. Both parents taught their children how to press on, even when the circumstances were not easy. Her father especially taught her how to honor and merge Biblical principles in both her professional life as a Chick-fil-A ambassador, author and former missionary and in her personal life as a wife, mother and grandmother. White shares that her family is still deeply committed to the original business purpose of Chick-fil-A established by her parents. “That purpose is to glorify God by being a faithful steward to all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.” Her parents also modeled how to keep charitable giving a foundation in the family business. White emphasizes that this idea does not just apply to monetary giving, but the Chick-fil-A family strives to be generous with their time, talents and influence in order to glorify God.

Trudy Cathy White with mom Jeannette and daughter Angela
Although the Whites live in Atlanta, Ga. they frequent Birmingham to see their daughter Angela and her family. Angela is pictured here with her mother Trudy and grandmother Jeannette.

Birmingham Connections. White attended Samford University and at the age of nineteen, she became the youngest Chick-fil-A operator, overseeing the company’s restaurant just miles from campus. White also met and fell in love with her Birmingham native husband, John White, during this time. While they lived in Birmingham during their college years, they were active members of Shades Mountain Baptist Church. The Whites served as missionaries in Brazil for 10 years with the International Mission Board and eventually settled in Atlanta, the home of Chick-fil-A, where White currently serves as a Chick-fil-A ambassador. Their daughter Angela lives in Birmingham with her husband Brent Fielder and their four children and they continue a role in the family business. Angela’s husband operates the Chick-fil-A Greystone location. White frequently visits Birmingham to see family and friends and adds that while she’s here she always makes plans to eat at Gus’s Hot Dogs and Davenport’s Pizza Palace. “Outside of Chick-fil-A, of course, we love to eat there.” Her favorite items on the Chick-fil-A menu? Chick-n-Minis and the original chicken sandwich with extra pickles!

A Quiet Strength
Trudy Cathy White explains that her new book, A Quiet Strength is similar to a memoir and is full of stories about her mother’s life. The book uncovers her role in the success of the nationwide restaurant chain Chick-fil-A.

A Quiet Strength. White hopes her new book of short stories about her mother’s life and legacy as a Christian wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother will inspire readers and be great reference for her family for generations to come. “Anybody that is wanting to focus on how to build their life and focus on the things that really matter in life, I think they will really enjoy reading the book and find it to be really encouraging.” White adds that she is trusting the Lord to use the book to bring honor to her mother. “Under my breath, I keep saying ‘Mom, I hope you’re okay with this,’ because she was such a behind the scenes person, and I am really putting her out there now.” A Quiet Strength is available for purchase online and in stores beginning March 10, 2020. Read more about White, her family and her other books at www.trudycathywhite.com.

Melissa Armstrong

 

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