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Claudia Sanders, widow of Col. Harland Sanders, dead at 94

January 2, 1997 GMT

SHELBYVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ Claudia Sanders, the widow of fried chicken legend Col. Harland Sanders and a restaurateur in her own right, died at her home Tuesday. She was 94.

Even before they married in 1949, Mrs. Sanders had begun helping the man known simply as ``the Colonel″ to build a business that became a fast-food empire. She met Sanders in the 1930s while working as a waitress in his first restaurant in Corbin, the Sanders Cafe.

By 1963, the Sanders’ had 600 chicken outlets and was taking in about $1,000 a day. Her husband sold Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1964 to John Y. Brown, who later became Kentucky governor. The company subsequently was sold to Pepsico Inc. Today there are more than 9,800 KFC restaurants in 73 countries.

``We could not have been the company we are now without Claudia’s contributions. We shall miss her,″ said David Novak, president and chief executive officer of KFC, in a statement.

When they married, Mrs. Sanders had two children and Sanders had three. The family lived in Corbin, where the Colonel perfected his chicken recipe and opened another restaurant.

Mrs. Sanders recounted in an 1991 interview how restaurants in other states would phone in orders and she would package up the food and spices and take it to the train station, often late at night, for the next train out.

``While he was out selling, I was home doing the work.″

Before and after they sold the chain, the couple traveled all over the world promoting the famous fried chicken.

``I went into restaurants all over the country and played the part of the hostess with this antebellum dress on,″ Mrs. Sanders said.

The Colonel sported his trademark white linen suit and black tie on such occasions _ openings of new franchises, parades and a seemingly endless stream of other events. He died of leukemia at age 90 in 1980.

An eatery she started, Claudia Sanders Dinner House, is still in business and still bears her name. It was sold in the mid-1970s.

Her survivors include a son, Elvis Ray Price, four sisters and two brothers.