Love’s mourns the passing of founder

March 8, 2023

Ryan Witkowski


The founder of a major truck stop chain has died.

On March 7, Tom Love, 85, founder and executive chair of Love’s Travel Stops, died in his hometown of Oklahoma City.

In his nearly six decades with the company, Love saw the family-owned and -operated business grow from a single store to a network of more than 600 locations across the United States.

Love was born in Oklahoma City in 1937. After graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1954. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, his four children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

“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.”

In 1964, Love and his wife used $5,000 to lease an abandoned service station in Watonga, Okla. Over the next eight years, the single store expanded to include 40 stores located throughout western Oklahoma.

In 1972, that growth would lead Love to create a new concept – the country store – which combined the goods of a grocery or convenience store with a self-serve gas station. According to Love’s, the country store in Guymon, Okla., was the first store in the nation to combine self-service gasoline and grocery items.

Love’s opened its first travel stop in 1981 on Interstate 40 in Amarillo, Texas.

Since then, the company has continued to expand, opening its 600th location in October 2022. The Love’s Family of Companies has grown to include businesses focused on truck maintenance, logistics, commodity supply and alternative energies.

“In his 59 years of leading the company, Tom was adamant about serving others and putting people first,” Love’s said in a statement. “His vision for establishing a nationwide network of “Clean Places, Friendly Faces” is a company-wide motto that embodies his customer-first approach.”

Over his career, Love amassed a number of honors, including these:

Shane Wharton, president of Love’s, said the company’s founder shared a special connection with his employees.

“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,” Wharton said in a statement. “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.”

Love also had a passion for sports, which would lead to the company partnering with the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder. Through that agreement, the company’s logo is displayed on the front left shoulder of the team’s jerseys. The Love’s logo has also graced Victory Lane at the Daytona 500, when Michael McDowell took the checkered flag while driving the Love’s-sponsored car in 2021.

Mike Turpin, former attorney general for the state of Oklahoma, said that Love embodied what it meant to be an Oklahoman.

“Tom represented the finest of our Oklahoma values of humility, honesty, compassion and service,” Turpin said in a statement. “He exhibited these exceptional core values in every aspect of his remarkable life – faith, family, friends, business and community. … Those who had the pleasure of knowing and working with Tom are better because of it.”

The company has established a memorial webpage to honor its late founder’s memory. LL