Foodservice Equipment Reports

In Memoriam: Hiawatha Founder Lois Thompson

Lois Thompson, 85, the founder of Hiawatha Chef Supply, passed away Nov. 27 after a long battle with emphysema.

The former Lois Murker started the Escanaba, Mich., dealership in 1955, in partnership with Doug Wescott.  “There were very few woman-owned businesses in 1955 and none in the foodservice industry,” Thompson said later. “I signed all of my orders and correspondence L.J. Murker, as I thought no one would answer if it was known that I was a woman.”

A year later, Wescott left the business and in 1958, Murker married Ralph Thompson. They grew the business together and expanded into janitorial, chemicals, disposables, and paper supplies. Thompson was an active industry presence for five decades. “Nothing—neither the dissolution of the original partnership or getting married and having a family—dissuaded her,” Editor Russ Carpenter wrote about Thompson in the July 1974 issue of Equipment Dealer.

She retired in 1995, eight years after her husband’s death. The business, including stores in Escanaba and Appleton, Wis., remains in the family, under the ownership of her son, Tracy. Thompson also is survived by her son, Terry; daughter, Candace; and 23 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Condolences can be sent to

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