Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Remembering Dick Van Patten

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Remembering Dick Van Patten

Article excerpt

In the world of classic television sitcom patriarchs, Dick Van Patten surely ranked high on the list of all-time favorite dads. Best remembered for his role of Tom Bradford in the ABC family series "Eight is Enough," which ran from 1977-81, Van Patten died June 23 at the age of 86 from complications of diabetes.

He appeared in dozens of films, television movies and series, guest-starring over the past decade in such TV hits as "That '70s Show," "Arrested Development" and "Hot in Cleveland."

In a March 2007 interview, I talked with then 78-year-old Van Patten from his home in Sherman Oaks, Calif., while he recovered from a mild diabetic stroke. But he was eager to talk about his careers.

Yes, careers.

He was gratified to have not only left his mark on the world of entertainment, but he was also proud to see his moniker adorning cans of dog food.

In 1989, he co-founded Natural Balance Pet Foods, the first national pet food company to produce all-natural dog food products. In his early 60s at the time, Van Patten successfully crafted a second vocation at an age when many would be hunting for retirement villas in Florida.

"If you're healthy and have the energy, it's never too late to start a new career," Van Patten told me. "It may even make you feel young again!"

Despite the lack of previous business experience in retail sales, the new career involving pets was the fulfillment of a life-long dream.

"I've always loved animals, and as a kid, I wanted to own a pet store," he said, recalling that his childhood home in Queens, N.Y., often was filled with dogs, cats, lizards, turtles, toads, rabbits and guinea pigs. "I even kept an alligator in a bathtub."

But Oscar -- the scaly reptilian bathroom lodger -- eventually outgrew his welcome and was retired to the Central Park Zoo.

"When he got to be three feet long, my grandmother, who lived with us, made me get rid of him because no one could take a bath," Van Patten said.

Some five decades later, Van Patten not only was a noted actor but owner of one of the largest pet food businesses in the country, with sales that quickly topped $100 million a year. …

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