Phillip Lynnwood Donaldson “Phil” was born September 5, 1933 in Savannah, Georgia, the eldest son of Kermit L. Donaldson and Maude Cowart Donaldson. He attended Savannah High School and the University of Georgia where he received a Bachelor degree in Business Administration. Upon graduation he entered the U. S. Air Force, acquiring his basic pilot training at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, and later B-47 jet aircraft training at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas. He was stationed at Davis-Monthan, a Strategic Air Command base in Tucson, Arizona when he met his future wife, Yvonne Cunningham who was attending the University of Arizona.
Upon leaving the Air Force, he and Yvonne were married and returned to Savannah together where he joined the family businesses, Johnny Harris Restaurant and Johnny Harris Barbecue Sauce Company. Later, he began to satisfy his entrepreneurial spirit by building and operating the Steak Corral Restaurant in Savannah, and owning the River’s End Restaurant in Thunderbolt, Georgia. He was an owner- operator of Wendy’s Restaurants in Valdosta, Waycross, Vidalia, Lake Park, Adel and Perry, Georgia, being a franchisee for over 40 years. He was elected to The Wendy’s Hall of Fame and had served on the Wendy’s Franchise Association Board. His Bemis Road Wendy’s in Valdosta was named the Best Wendy’s in the World in 2007. He was an owner along with his daughter and son-in-law, of The Atlanta Bread Company restaurants in Savannah and Valdosta as well as the Houlihan’s Restaurant in Savannah.
Phil served for a number of years on the Boards of Bethesda Home for Boys, and the former Wachovia Bank. He was a member of the Oglethorpe Club, The Landings Club, and the Lake Toxaway Country Club in Lake Toxaway, North Carolina where he and his wife enjoyed a second home for many years. He was a former member of the Savannah Golf Club and a member of a number of hospitality industry associations.
Phil will be remembered for his outstanding business expertise and attention to detail. He was a role model to many who worked for him in the Wendy’s restaurant industry and he and his franchises were honored many times by Wendy’s International for outstanding performance and commitment to excellence. His employees took great pride in making sure their stores were run with the highest standards. He rewarded his managers frequently with praise and honored their loyalty and hard work by hosting cruises to the Caribbean. He recognized the potential in all and was instrumental in guiding young people who worked for him. His generosity was legendary.
Phil and Yvonne loved to travel and enjoyed exploring many parts of the world together. He was also an accomplished watercolor artist and loved to tease that his pieces were priceless, translating that none had ever sold. The loves of his life were his grandsons, Corbin (Christen), Brennan and Grayson and his granddaughter Peyton. He thrived on helping them discover their potential, offering help, guidance and advice whenever he could. He has most recently enjoyed the addition of his first great-grandchildren, Madeline, August and Phoebe Moon Parker.
He will be greatly missed by Yvonne, his wife of 63 years, daughter Julie Lowenthal, son-in-law B.J. Lowenthal, Jr, and his adored grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He also leaves a brother John K. Donaldson of New York City, and a sister Linda (Norman) Heidt of Savannah, several nieces, nephews and dear friends. His family is also so thankful to his team of loyal caregivers, especially Erica.
There will be a private graveside service. The family suggests that remembrances be made to The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption @davethomasfoundation.org or mail to 4900 Tuttle Crossing Blvd, Dublin OH 43016
Rest In Peace Mr. Donaldson. So nice working with you for many years. Our prayers are with the family.
- Edgar and Margaret Ellen Rahn, Savannah, Ga
To the family of Phil Donaldson, I send my deepest sympathy & condolences for his loss. My memories will always return to his presence at Johnny Harris Restaurant - such a kind Southern gentleman. God bless.
- Carolyn Sheehan, Tybee Island, GA
Always enjoyed Phils sense of humor and the many times we would meet in his office and then walk across the street to Harris's for lunch. What a wonderful person. Condolenses to family. Phil will be missed.
- Steve Sramm and Polly Stramm, Savannah, GA
I will cherish the fond memories of the many lunches Nancy and I shared with Phil at Johnny Harris Restaurant. Since I am an asthmatic, Phil will bring me many articles to read about asthma. I met him while he was delivering Johnny Harris sauce and I was building Canada Dry displays. We also served on the Bethesda Board together. Not only were we long time friends, but he was my mentor, sharing his wisdom with me. God Bless the Donaldson family and may Phil Rest In Peace. Jack and Nancy Forehand
- Jack Forehand, Savannah, GA
Services under the direction of:
Fox & Weeks Funeral Directors, Hodgson Chapel