I never was a big oatmeal eater when I was a kid. During the cold months mom would cook me Cream of Wheat instead.
I remember staring at the box as this black chef smiled at me every morning. I often wondered if this was a real person or a character much like Tony the Tiger or Capn’ Crunch.
He was REAL!
In fact the man widely believed to be the model for the white-hatted chef whose face has greeted breakfasting Americans for more than a century on Cream of Wheat boxes finally has a grave marker bearing his name just this week.
Frank L. White died in 1938, and until this week, his grave in Woodlawn Cemetery in Leslie, Michigan 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 local paper, 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.
I can’t help but wonder if Nancy Green, the lady who was used for the logo of Aunt Jemima, has a grave stone telling who she was.