Tim Hortons co-founder, Ron Joyce, dies at age 88

Joyce invested in the first Tim Hortons shop in Hamilton in 1964
Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press
Ron Joyce, co-founder of Tim Hortons, sips a coffee in Toronto on Friday, October 20, 2006. Joyce has died at age age 88. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Harris

Ron Joyce, who rose from a childhood marked by the Great Depression to co-found the Tim Hortons doughnut chain, has died at the age of 88.

Joyce died Thursday, peacefully in his Burlington, Ont., home with his family at his side, the family said in a statement.

The cause of death was not immediately clear.

“My father had a big vision and a big heart. Through hard work, determination and drive, he built one of the most successful restaurant chains in Canada,” said Steven Joyce in a statement on behalf of the family.

“He never forgot his humble beginnings.”

Joyce was born in Tatamagouche, N.S., in 1930, with two siblings to follow, while his father struggled to find construction work due to the ripple effects of the Depression.

His father died in an accident when Joyce was three years old, while his mother was pregnant with their third child.

Joyce described this “modest upbringing” in his memoir “Always Fresh: The Untold Story of Tim Hortons.”

He went on to invest in the first Tim Hortons shop in Hamilton in 1964 and helped grow it into a successful chain before selling it to Wendy’s International Inc. in 1996.

“Ron was a larger-than-life friend who not only helped create one of Canada’s most iconic brands but was passionate about ensuring Tim Hortons always gave back to the community,” reads a statement signed from the Tim Hortons team.

He helped found the Tim Horton Children’s foundation, which pays to send underprivileged children to one of several Tim Hortons camps and runs youth programs. This year, the organization will send more than 19,000 kids to camp, according to its website.

He founded The Joyce Family Foundation, which focuses on providing access to education for children and youth facing significant financial need or other barriers to success.

Joyce’s generosity “has been felt across the country,” said The Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, Ont., and its namesake foundation.

Joyce donated $7.5 million to support the hospital’s redevelopment and expansion.