By Mark Rountree
Stillwater NewsPress / CNHI News Service
Richard Dermer, who turned Hideaway Pizza into one of Stillwater’s iconic restaurants, died suddenly Friday in Oklahoma City.
Dermer, the founder and longtime owner of the restaurant, died at 10:08 p.m. Friday in the intensive care unit at Integris Baptist Center in Oklahoma City. He was 74.
One of Dermer’s last wishes was to not have a funeral service. Marti Dermer, Richard’s wife, said his body will be donated to science at the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine.
Instead, the family will have a memorial service June 19 — Richard Dermer’s birthday.
“We want to give everyone a heads-up and time to get back into town,” Marti Dermer said.
Richard Dermer’s health had been declining in the last several years. He had triple-bypass heart surgery seven years ago and had a pacemaker installed about two years ago.
“He was an extremely intelligent fellow and extremely kind,” Marti Dermer said. “He was very concerned about his employees.”
The restaurant employed hundreds of Oklahoma State University students over the years.
Marti Dermer said the restaurant did not hire freshmen employees because Richard insisted the new college students get acclimated to college life. Richard was so concerned about his employees’ grades that he often insisted they show him their report cards.
Marti said the “magic of a good restaurant” is the personality and work ethic of the employees.
Dermer, a Stillwater native and a 1957 graduate of Stillwater High School, bought the business for $10,000 in 1959 when he was a sophomore at Oklahoma State. He was able to pay off the debt in two years, Marti said.
Hideaway Pizza has been in its present location since 1980. The brand has expanded to 12 other locations across the state, including four locations in Oklahoma City, six locations in the Tulsa area, and one location each in Norman and Edmond.
In 2007, Hideaway Pizza celebrated its 50th anniversary.
“Marti and Richard represented mom and dad to so many students,” said Janie Harris, marketing director for the restaurant.
Marti said that in his later years, Dermer would go to the restaurant around lunch time and take over dish-washing duties so the employee could be of more valued service elsewhere in the restaurant.
The Dermers also were avid kite flyers. Richard won many awards and held several leadership positions with the American Kitefliers Association.
Many examples of their kites hang on the walls of the Hideaway Pizza restaurants across the state.
Richard Dermer was advancing the kite-flying cause even in his last days. Marti said even though Richard was in the ICU at the hospital, he asked her to bring membership cards to the hospital in hopes of signing up interested people.
Rountree is news editor for The Stillwater NewsPress.