Elwyn Dean Werries, who spent nearly 40 years with grocery wholesaler Fleming Cos., died April 25 following a period of declining health. He was 82.
Werries was born May 8, 1929, in Tescott, Kan. At the age of eight he began his business career at his Uncle Will’s grocery store in Tescott.
He graduated high school in Minneapolis, Kan., where he starred on the high school football team. He then went on to graduate from the University of Kansas in 1952 with a bachelor’s degree in business. While at the university he was named to the Omicron Delta Kappa Honorary Society, which exemplifies scholastic achievements and citizenship.
Werries was a major contributor to the university through the years, especially the School of Business. He and his wife of 50 years, Marjean, established the Dean Werries National Merit Scholarship Fund, the Majean Werries Scholarship Fund and the Dean and Marjean Werries scholarship for the performing arts.
Werries served with the United States Army during the Korean War.
In 1955 he began working for the Fleming Cos. Inc. in Topeka, Kan., handling sales in Wichita. Werries became president of the Fleming Cos. in 1978; chairman and CEO in 1989; and CEO and chairman of the board in 1993. He retired from Fleming in 1994, having led the company to become the nation’s largest food wholesaler.
While working at Fleming he attended Harvard Advanced Executive Management School.
After he retired, Werries was appointed to the board of directors of Sonic Drive-In and soon was named chairman of the board. He served in this position for 14 years, becoming chairman emeritus after retiring from the board. He always was quoted as saying, “Your dollar will go further at Sonic.”
During his distinguished grocery career Werries served as chairman of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and chairman of the National Grocers Association (N.G.A.). He served as Oklahoma’s secretary of commerce under Gov. Frank Keating, and was a member of the board of advisors at the University of Kansas.
Dean met Marjean Sparling Storm in 1961 through a blind date in Wichita. On May 18, 1962, the couple was married. With Marjean came 14-year-old twin boys named Gary and Greg Storm and a five-year-old German shepherd named Duke. In the beginning, Dean and Duke were leery of each other but soon became inseparable friends. In retirement, Dean and Marjean traveled throughout the world, traveling to 28 countries.
The funeral for Dean Werries will be held May 1 at 10 a.m. in the Chapel of the Crossing Community Church, 14600 North Portland in Oklahoma City, with internment to follow at Rose Hill Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Alzheimer’s Foundation or a charitable donation of your choice.