Town Pump Founder Dies
Published in CSP Daily News
Kenneally remembered for his work ethic, dedication
BUTTE, Mont. -- Tom Kenneally Sr., the founder of the Town Pump convenience store chain, died Friday in Butte, Mont., of natural causes.
Kenneally, 88, was born in San Francisco in 1924. His parents returned to Butte soon after his birth, and they had two more sons, Jim and John. Kenneally's first job was delivering newspapers in the Washington Street neighborhood in Butte. Summers were spent working as a hired hand in the tiny ranching community of Helmville, north of Deer Lodge, according to an obituary in the Montana Standard.
Kenneally attended St. Patrick's Grade School in Butte, where he was taught by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, graduating in 1938. He graduated in 1942 from Boys' Central High School under the Irish Christian Brothers and then attended Montana State College in Bozeman (Montana State University), where he earned a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering.
Kenneally went to work for Texaco in 1948 as a lubrication engineer and participated in a training program in the Denver division as a specialist in building gas stations.
He met Mary Ann Baker, a bank teller manager, at a Denver church social dance, and they married in June 1951. They moved to Nebraska where their first child was born. Eventually, seven children were born, along with nine grandchildren. The couple celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary June 16, 2013.
Tom Sr. and Mary worked hard and saved. After accumulating $5,000, they moved back to his hometown of Butte to start their own business, which opened in 1953. This was the first Town Pump gas station and the beginning of a business legacy characterized by continuous growth to this day.
Kenneally was a pioneer in fuel retailing. He believed customers would be willing to pump their own fuel if it meant lower prices. There were doubters, of course, when he introduced the concept of self-serve gasoline. Some speculated there would be explosions due to untrained individuals handling such a combustible product.
After the petroleum shortages of the 1970s, the market was flooded with relatively inexpensive motor fuels. Once assured of a reliable supply and in response to customer demands, Kenneally and the company embarked on a concerted expansion into convenience stores and other businesses.
Under Kenneally's leadership and through continuous reinvestment, Town Pump focused on staying at the forefront by adopting the best and latest innovations to improve customer service and value, according to a news release from the family.
Kenneally has been characterized by those who knew him as "astute with a strong work ethic, goal-oriented, deep in his faith, committed to family, friends and employees, willing to take risks, disciplined, passionate, humble and always growing and learning."
In 1999, Kenneally was profiled as one of the most notable "100 Montanans of the 20th Century." He received numerous awards in recognition of his civic contributions, including the Philanthropic Award from the Montana Food Bank Network and awards from the Montana Fire Alliance and emergency responders as well as the Special Olympics of Montana.
In Butte he served the Salvation Army, Montana Tech, St. Ann's Church, Our Lady of The Rockies, YMCA, Elks, Knights of Columbus (4th Degree), Rotary, Bible study club, Century Club, various dance clubs and others.
"While we grieve, we also celebrate this remarkable life and this remarkable man," the family said in a statement, according to the newspaper report. "He was such a positive influence on all of us, the company, the business community and the state of Montana."