Company News

Tom Love, Founder of Love’s Travel Stops, Dies

Head of truckstop network, community leader was 85
Tom Love
Photography courtesy of Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores

Tom Love, who with his wife and business partner Judy, founded Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, died at age 85 in his hometown of Oklahoma City on March 7.

A respected community and business leader, Love was admired for his genuine humility, good-natured disposition, generosity and helpfulness toward others, the company said in announcing his death.

“Tom Love was a man of conviction who never wavered from the principles of honesty and integrity in the 59 years he spent developing the company he started with his wife, Judy,” said Shane Wharton, president of Love’s. “These tenets still guide our company and will as we move forward. Tom always listened and was sincerely interested in knowing the stories of employees and customers. He wanted to hear their thoughts, ideas and hopes for them, their families and the company. He credited the company’s success to the people who worked for us. He could relate to all employees but had a soft spot for those on the frontline at stores. In many respects, he was an ordinary person who built an extraordinary business alongside his wife Judy and his family, who he loved deeply.”

Love is survived by his wife of 62 years, Judy, his children Frank, Greg, Jenny and Laura, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren and two more on the way.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved husband, father and grandfather,” the Love family said in a statement. “He loved people, and that was evident in how he guided our family, operated the business he started in 1964 and gave back to our community and organizations across the country that serve others. He was always committed to helping others succeed and opening the door for leaders, including his children and grandchildren, and we look forward to building upon his legacy. While the grief we feel is unmeasurable, we celebrate his life and will continue his legacy of living a life filled with integrity, honesty and faith.”

Love was born in 1937 in Oklahoma City. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1954. In 1960, he married Judy. In 1964, they used $5,000 to lease an abandoned service station in Watonga, a small rural town northwest of Oklahoma City. From a modest beginning, the then-named Musket Corp. opened 40 stores in eight years in western Oklahoma.

Love established a new concept—the country store—that combined existing business models for grocery and convenience stores with a self-service gas station. In 1972, Love’s Country Store in Guymon, Oklahoma, became the first in the nation to combine self-service gasoline and grocery items, the company said. It featured self-service gasoline, grocery and dairy items and offered extended hours, seven days a week. This new store model would help Love’s eventually emerge as one of the most successful private businesses in America.

Love’s opened its first travel stop on Interstate 40 in Amarillo, Texas, in 1981, catering to professional truck drivers and the motoring public. Throughout the decades, Love’s has expanded its services to include hot and fresh food items, truck care maintenance and showers.

The company opened its 600th location in October 2022. The Love’s Family of Companies has grown to include businesses focused on truck maintenance, logistics, commodity supply and alternative energies.

In his 59 years of leading the company, Love was adamant about serving others and putting people first. His vision for establishing a nationwide network of “Clean Places, Friendly Faces” is a company-wide motto that embodies his customer-first approach.

He also helped those in his communities. The Love family has donated to local and national organizations such as Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, United Way, Catholic Charities, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma. In 2018, OU opened the Tom Love Innovation Hub to provide a space for future entrepreneurs and other workforce development programs. The university recently broke ground on Love’s Field, the future home of the six-time national champion Sooner softball team. In addition, his legacy will carry on at the Love Family Women’s Center on the campus of Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City and Science Museum Oklahoma’s new planetarium that will be named Love’s Planetarium.

Love received honors including Corporation of the Year in 1991 and the 1996 President’s Award for Service to God and Country. He was chosen as Oklahoma’s Most Admired CEO in 2010 and Trust Guardian Transportation Award in 2014. A Chickasaw citizen, Tom was inducted into the Chickasaw Hall of Fame in 2019 and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2000.

Love’s Travel Stops is the nation’s leading travel stop network with more than 600 locations in 42 states. Founded in 1964 and based in Oklahoma City, the company remains family-owned and operated and employs more than 39,000 people. Love’s provides professional truck drivers and motorists with 24-hour access to clean and safe places to purchase gasoline, diesel fuel, fresh coffee, restaurant offerings and more. It has more than 430 truck service centers, which include Speedco and Love’s Truck Care locations.

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