East Texan famous for Mexican restaurant chain, literacy work passes away
Posted: 09/12/2013 10:18 PM


An East Texas entrepreneur, famous for owning several Mexican restaurants in addition to his literacy advocacy work, passed away this week.

Tom Harken owned several Casa Ole restaurants in East Texas, before retiring to Tyler five years ago.

The 76-year-old died at a Houston hospital on Wednesday, after battling illness for the last year.

Family friend and colleague Nancy Crawford remembers Harken as "a true American rags to riches story, by a decent honest person who continued to give back."

Harken did everything from selling vacuum cleaners to recreational vehicles before opening his first Casa Ole restaurant in Beaumont in 1979.

But the successful entrepreneur had been hiding a secret for years: he did not know how to read.  
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