Richard J. “Dick” Dempsey, co-founder of Dempsey Uniform & Linen Supply, died Monday after a battle with cancer. He was 75.
Dempsey, a natural and gifted salesman, co-founded Dempsey Uniform & Linen Supply, Inc. with his brother Patrick in Dunmore, PA in 1959. They began with five employees and one route of business. Since that time, the company has become a multi-state operation servicing seven states with over three hundred employees. Dempsey Uniform & Linen rents uniforms, linens and floor mats to a wide variety of businesses with a weekly service that includes pick-up, cleaning and delivery.
“Dempsey would not be what it is today without the forty years he spent by my side. He was my partner, my brother and my friend. He was a gifted storyteller and these stories helped him bond with our customers and communicate with our employees; they also made him a welcome guest at any party. The irony is that stories about Dick live on at Dempsey Uniform today. He fathered not only this company but also four fine sons. Not as much as they will I’m sure, but everyone at Dempsey will miss Dick,” said Patrick J. Dempsey, Chairman of Dempsey Uniform & Linen Supply.
Dick's father, James G. Dempsey, left school during fifth grade to work as a breaker boy in a local coal colliery. He later worked in the home-laundry business at Mother's Laundry in Dunmore, PA. While working there, he began a small commercial service for coveralls and towels. Dick later fulfilled his father’s greatest dream for his children by graduating from college in 1958. By then, Dick already had “soap in his veins” and was destined to be a laundry man himself.
Thus, in 1959, with a loan guarantee and one route of business from their father, Dick and Pat Dempsey built a modern laundry facility in Dunmore. Dick was the “outside man” running sales and service. He sold the company’s first accounts himself, including Caesar’s Pocono Resorts, which stand today as a Dempsey Uniform & Linen customer fifty years later. Dick managed the delivery service department and, in the early days, served as the back-up driver. He was also a one-man marketing department, designing the company’s truck logos, brochures and the first industry TV commercials (with the legendary “shaking truck”). Images of his famous Uncle Sam truck design live on, declaring, “I want to serve you!”
Dempsey led the company into new product lines and markets as the small company grew in the face of large, national competitors. A fierce competitor, he brought Gorilla Marketing to life. Under his sales and service leadership, the company expanded the Dunmore plant three times, made four major business acquisitions and survived a terrifying plant fire. By his retirement in 2000, Dempsey Uniform & Linen Supply had become a one-stop shop for uniform, linen and mat services for customers across four states.
Dempsey spent his retirement enjoying his passions outside of laundry – his family, hunting, fishing and golf. He particularly enjoyed hunting with his sons and grandsons.
To honor Dempsey’s contribution to the company and celebrate his life, Dempsey Uniform & Linen Supply has commissioned architect Michele Dempsey of DxDempsey, his niece, to design a memorial for the corporate headquarters in Jessup, PA.
Dempsey is survived by his wife Mary Lou, his children, Richard J. Dempsey, Jr., James G. Dempsey, Timothy Dempsey and Joseph Dempsey, and six grandchildren.
Obituary for Richard J. Dempsey (link)