Pizza rollerJeno Paulucci

The son of an iron miner, Paulucci’s father was injured on the job and could no longer work. Jeno went to work in the family grocery store during the Depression, and by 1944, he began his career as what he called an “incurable entrepreneur,” starting his own food company. It was successful: his Chun King brand quickly grew to be half of all packaged Chinese foods sold in the U.S., and he sold the company in 1966 for $63 million. He then started another food company, selling Jeno’s frozen pizza and inventing “Jeno’s Pizza Rolls” — a finger food that got so popular he sold that company too (for $135 million, in 1985). “I should’ve kept the pizza roll,” he lamented later. “It’s something that’ll damn near live forever.” But as an “incurable entrepreneur” he started another company, selling frozen Italian foods under the brand Michelina’s (named for his mother). In the meantime, he created and developed a master-planned community (Heathrow, Fla.), founded the National Italian American Foundation, served as a presidential emissary to Italy, and gave away millions of dollars from his fortune. He died November 24 — just four days after his wife, Lois, died. He was 93.

From This is True for 27 November 2011