The suits were bespoke and the coleslaw was free for the Kentucky Colonel living west
of Dixie.

Harland Sanders, the goateed founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, didn’t just bring his secret recipe to Canada during the post-war boom, he brought his generosity too. From 1965 until his death at age 90 in 1980, Colonel Sanders, that famous 20th century foodie, lived part of the year in a modest bungalow near the corner of Dixie Avenue and The Queensway, where he purposefully forged a legacy that continues today.

While the primary reason for his move north was to oversee his Canadian operations, Sanders wasn’t just in the business of selling chicken, he was also in the business of giving back.

By the time the 75-year-old Colonel and his wife Claudia moved onto Melton Avenue around the corner from Applewood Plaza, he was already a millionaire, having sold the bulk of his American franchises for $2 million U.S. in 1964. That’s about $19.6M U.S. in current dollars.

He retained control of his Canadian holdings, which he had franchised to Toronto entrepreneur George Gardiner’s Scott’s Hospitality Group in the 1950s.

In 1965, Scott’s came west, opening a Scott’s Chicken Villa on Dundas Street in Erindale, the first of several Mississauga locations.

Colonel Sanders waving to the crowd at a parade in Brampton, 1966. (Photo credit: Region of Peel Archives)

Rather than add to his personal fortune, Sanders elected to channel the earnings from his growing Canadian business into the Harland Sanders Charitable Organization, a registered Canadian charity that continues to carry on the Colonel’s legacy.

So, while the Colonel travelled North America in his signature white suits (made by Toronto’s Walter Beachamp Tailors) in support of his growing brand, his charitable organization was growing too, thanks to the help of Canadian lawyer Terrence Donnelly.

The pair had met at the CNE Food Pavilion during one of the Colonel’s early trips north of the border, and when it came time to negotiate his house purchase, Sanders called up Donnelly.

From there a business and personal friendship was born.

Donnelly helped the Colonel open franchises across Canada, served on the Canadian company’s board of directors, and eventually became head of the Colonel’s charity. Working all those years with the Colonel influenced Donnelly, so when he became a millionaire in his own right following the sale of Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Canadian holdings in 1986 to PepsiCo, he decided to invest in health care too.

In 2011, Donnelly donated $12 million to the University of Toronto Mississauga campus for the Terrence Donnelly Health Sciences Complex, one of three significant gifts to support U of T’s global leadership in healthcare education and research. The Foundation has also given generously to support children’s health in hospitals across Canada, including to Trillium Health Partners, which created the Colonel Harland Sanders Family Care Centre, at the Mississauga Hospital in 1998.

Over the past three decades, Trillium Health Partners has built out from that initial gift in
a big way.

It is now building Ontario’s first Women’s and Children’s Hospital, part of Canada’s largest hospital, The Peter Gilgan Mississauga Hospital.

A legacy of giving with connections back to a charismatic Kentucky senior with a silver

Leave a Reply