Burgers, fries and a soda did not become a ubiquitous roadside meal because of the McDonald's brothers.
Though they may have invented the concept, it was Ray Kroc who took a single business, McDonald's, and turned it into an international franchise.
If you are an avid listener of NPR, you probably hear "Kroc" every day. NPR was just one of the many recipients of Ray Kroc's money, much of which was given away by his third wife, Joan Kroc. Their relationship and philanthropy is the subject new biography by Lisa Napoli called "Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald's Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away."
Napoli, who has worked in journalism for three decades, stumbled across Joan Kroc’s story when she went to cover a sculpture of a mushroom cloud in Santa Monica, California which was in disrepair and set to be removed. Activists were fighting to keep it standing. There, she learned that Joan Kroc had originally financed the sculpture.
“I decry fast food and it just didn’t line up. How could this woman be a peace activist with this family history?” Napoli said. “And the more I found out about her, the more I couldn’t wait to learn more.”
In Napoli’s research, she found that Joan and Ray Kroc had an often difficult relationship, spurred by Ray Kroc’s alcoholism. So with their fortune, Joan Kroc was one of the first financiers of addiction research, and throughout her life, gave away billions of dollars to peace movements, activists, artists and organizations as far reaching as the Salvation Army to the San Diego Zoo.
“She was the embodiment of empathy,” said Napoli.