Truett Cathy founded one of the largest and fastest-growing fast-food restaurants chains in America, Chick-fil-A, in 1946.
Trudy Cathy White, the daughter of Chick-fil-A founder shares the ‘secret sauce’ at work behind-the-scenes in her book A Quiet Strength: The Life and Legacy of Jeannette M. Cathy.
“A lot of people know my dad, the inventor of Chick-fil-A, but very few people have had the pleasure of knowing my mom, Jeannette Cathy. She was a remarkable lady and had a significant impact on my dad’s life, on our life as a family, and certainly in the family business. I felt like it was time to share her story,” White said.
About the Book
The memoir gives readers a look into the Cathy family by detailing the life of the unsung hero, Jeannette Cathy.
“When people pick up this book and read it, they are going to be encouraged. No matter what adversity you face in life, you can flourish because God is there to give you strength,” White said.
Jeannette focused her life on four simple words: You can with God.
She demonstrated a humble but unwavering faith in her home as well as the business.
Jeannette’s Role in Building Chick-fil-A
When Jeannette married Truett, her childhood sweetheart in 1948, they work together in the first restaurant that is still open today in Atlanta, GA. Jeannette was a waitress and did the accounting and bookkeeping. As the business grew, so did the Cathy family which is when Jeannette decided to work from home raising their children.
White shares that her mother had the most critical role in all the family, dubbing her with the title of ‘Chief Supporting Officer’. Jeannette took that role seriously by providing relentless support to her husband. “It’s important for people to realize you don’t have to be in the spotlight. You don’t have to be on the stage or holding the microphone. But you have a role to play in the lives of other people around you by undergirding and offering them support,” White said.
Throughout the growth of the business, Jeannette supported her husband with regular prayer. Truett and Jeannette prayed together and as a family.
“We have never separated business from good biblical principles and practices which we believe have contributed to the success of the business,” White said. “My dad always felt one of the best business decisions he ever made was to give everybody a day of rest. To this day and in the future, our restaurants are closed on Sundays. This is a way to honor God and allow people to spend time with their families and to worship God.”
White shared that her family is still deeply committed to the original business purpose of Chick-fil-A established by her parents.
That purpose is to glorify God by being a faithful steward to all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.
Jeannette was raised during the Great Depression by a single mom after her father left when she was a baby. At a time when not many women were afforded the opportunity, she was able to achieve her dream of attending college and seminary thanks to ladies from her church who put their money together to make it happen.
“She continued that learning spirit. She was a lifelong learner but was rarely in the spotlight,” White said.
Jeannette loved to problem solve. If there was an issue with the plumbing or an appliance, she would learn how to fix it. Jeannette was eighty years old when she got her first computer and ninety years old when she got an iPhone.
A Legacy of Faith: A Message to Mothers
Jeannette had a love for reading and memorizing the Bible. Her favorite verse and one White claims to define her mother is from Philippians 4:13 that states, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
White recalls how her mother had a habit of being at the back door when the children would leave. Jeannette would tell them to ‘remember who you are and whose you are.’
“She didn’t want us to find our identity in who we are related to or what we had or what we do. She wanted our identity to be defined by what the Bible says we are: A child of God. Mother wanted us to know God loves us and has a purpose for our life.”
White believes that a legacy is something we live day-to-day before it is something that is left behind.
“My mother told me when she was in the hospital, ‘days are long, but life is short,’ White said. “In reality, life is short, and we must be intentional about how we live our life. As parents, we often worry if our children are listening. We must also be concerned that they are watching all the time.”
White says when she looks at the life of her mother, she realizes Jeannette was not the perfect mom or wife. But she was consistent and intentional in living out the values that were important to her personally and in business.
“Mothers sacrifice a lot and sometimes they aren’t appreciated enough. I’m grateful for a mother who took the time to be intentional and give of her time.”