Saturday, June 30, 2007

Frank L. White; The Cream of Wheat Man Gets Headstone!


A box of Cream of Wheat is shown in Detroit, Thursday, June 14, 2007. The man widely believed to be the model for the Cream of Wheat man, a smiling white-hatted chef whose face has greeted breakfasting Americans for more than a century, finally has a grave marker bearing his name and image. Frank L. White died in 1938 may have been an American icon. His grave in Leslie, Mich., bore only a tiny concrete marker with no name. That ended Wednesday, June 13 when a rose granite stone and etching of what is believed to be his likeness were placed at his burial site.

LESLIE, Mich. - A man widely believed to be the model for the smiling chef on Cream of Wheat boxes finally has a grave marker bearing his name.Frank L. White died in 1938, and until this week, his grave in Woodlawn Cemetery bore only a tiny concrete marker with no name.
On Wednesday, a granite gravestone was placed at his burial site. It bears his name and an etching taken from the man depicted on the Cream of Wheat box.


Jesse Lasorda, a family researcher from Lansing, started the campaign to put the marker and etching on White's grave. "Everybody deserves a headstone," Lasorda told the Lansing State Journal. He discovered that White was born about 1867 in Barbados, came to the U.S. in 1875 and became a citizen in 1890.

When White died Feb. 15, 1938, the Leslie Local-Republican described him as a "famous chef" who "posed for an advertisement of a well-known breakfast food."White lived in Leslie for about the last 20 years of his life, and the story of his posing for the Cream of Wheat picture was known in the city of 2,000 located between Jackson and Lansing and about 70 miles west of Detroit.

The chef was photographed about 1900 while working in a Chicago restaurant. His name was not recorded. White was a chef, traveled a lot, was about the right age and told neighbors that he was the Cream of Wheat model, the Jackson Citizen Patriot said.Long owned by Kraft Foods Inc., the Cream of Wheat brand was sold this year to B&G Foods Inc.

For the past 69 years he has been largely forgotten. His grave in Woodlawn Cemetery bore only a tiny concrete marker with no name. That ended Wednesday, when a rose granite stone and etching of what is believed to be his likeness were placed at his burial site.White is thought by many to be the famed face that graced Cream of Wheat advertisements in the early part of the last century. A notation discovered almost three years ago in a yellowed book at the cemetery office marked White's plot No. 310 as that of the "Cream of Wheat man." Thus began a community campaign to give White, who lived in Leslie for about the last 20 years of his life, the recognition that a national celebrity might deserve.

"I heard the Frank White story when I was a little girl," said 70-year-old Sharon Lantz. "I was proud he was from Leslie." As a city resident she helped raise the more than $600 needed to buy the headstone and have it carved with White's name and the date of his death, Feb. 15, 1938. Leslie's Chamber of Commerce kicked in $100 and the rest came a few bucks at a time from folks throughout Greater Lansing. "Some people would drop in the bank and give $1," she said. "They'd see me on the street and give a $1."

There is some doubt whether the Cream of Wheat image is truly that of White, whether anyone even modeled for it and how much that person was paid. Locals, though, are convinced White's story is true and want to preserve it, even though by today's standards of political correctness, some might see the image of a servant chef as demeaning. Jesse Lasorda, who initiated the campaign to put the marker and etching on White's grave, believes White would be pleased.

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