MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

March 16, 2014

Hideaway Pizza chain founder dead at 74

TULSA (AP) — Richard Dermer, who opened the first Hideaway Pizza in Stillwater back in 1957, has died. He was 74.

Dermer died in an Oklahoma City hospital Friday night after a spate of health issues in recent years, including triple-bypass surgery, pneumonia and a fall, which led to recent complications, Hideaway Pizza marketing director and family friend Janie Harris told The Associated Press.

Dermer founded Hideaway Pizza while he was a student at Oklahoma State University. He’d go on to employ hundreds of OSU students at the iconic restaurant. In the 1960s and 1970s, the restaurant used Volkswagen Beetles to deliver pizzas to hungry students and residents.

“He’s touched all these lives. That’s Richard’s legacy. The lives he’s touched and the generosity he shared with his friendship and ability to be there for all these students over the years,” Harris said.

In 1993, Dermer passed along rights to stores outside of Stillwater, and Hideaway Pizza locations opened elsewhere in Oklahoma, including Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

Dermer, known as the “Big Kahuna,” was an avid kite flyer, and he and his wife, Marti, traveled all over the world attending different events and teaching workshops to students. The Stillwater restaurant and their home are filled with kites, Harris said.

A few years ago, Dermer was involved in an attempt to set a new Guinness World Record for number of kites flown at once, Harris said. Though the event, which took place in Enid, fell short of setting a new record, it helped Dermer’s mission of getting more people interested in kite flying.

Dermer’s body is being donated to the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. A memorial service will take place June 19 — Dermer’s birthday— in Stillwater, Harris said.

“I’m betting there will be some kind of kite-flying involved — and pizza,” Harris said.

In addition to his wife,  Dermer is survived by two sons, four grandchildren and two sisters.

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