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Book Explores Life Of Joan Kroc, The San Diego Philanthropist Who Gave McDonald’s Fortune Away

Photo credit: Penguin Random House

The cover of "Ray & Joan" by Lisa Napoli.

Book Explores Life Of Joan Kroc, The San Diego Philanthropist Who Gave McDonald’s Fortune Away


Lisa Napoli, author, "Ray & Joan"


What started as a biography of philanthropist Joan Kroc turned into a story of two people, a tumultuous relationship and a lasting legacy.

Lisa Napoli got the idea for "Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald's Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away" when she was reporting on a sculpture in disrepair in Los Angeles. She discovered that it had been funded by Joan Kroc and wanted to know more about her. That's when she realized a biography of Joan Kroc had not been written. She decided she would be the one to do it.

When she started researching, she realized she couldn't tell Joan's story without telling her husband Ray Kroc's story.

Ray made his fortune by leading the franchising of McDonald's restaurants.

He and Joan first met while married to other people. Both eventually divorced and married each other. Their relationship was not perfect, Napoli said. Kroc had a drinking problem and a temper.

"Joan stuck it out in this difficult relationship and turned it into something that helped so many people," Napoli said.

The couple relocated to San Diego after Kroc bought the Padres in 1974, preventing the team from moving to Washington, D.C. The Krocs have made a lasting impact on San Diego, including the Ray & Joan Kroc Salvation Army Community Center and the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego.

When Ray died in 1984, he left his wife about $500 million. She gave a good portion of that inheritance away, including setting a record for NPR's largest donation — $236 million — and a $5 million donation to KPBS.

Joan died of brain cancer in 2003.

Napoli speaks to Midday Edition on Thursday about the couple.

She will be speaking at La Jolla Riford Library, 7555 Draper Avenue, on Sat. Dec. 3 at 2 p.m. to discuss and sign her book.


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