Barney Chapman, who recognized early the opportunity presented by Dairy Queen franchises in Texas and member of a legacy Texas ranching family, died Feb. 17 at his ranch north of Clarksville on the Red River, of complications of cancer.
He was 81.
Mr. Chapman lived life on his own terms and died the same way – at the ranch he acquired late in life surrounded by his children. He was buried in Aledo next to his brother John – whom he talked to almost daily throughout most of his life.
That – and dying at the ranch – were two of his final requests.
Mr. Chapman got into the DQ business in 1963 and was involved in some way in the development and construction of more than 250 Dairy Queens in four states and five foreign countries.
He lived in Rome for a number of years and tried – unsuccessfully – to set up a Dairy Queen on the Via Di Ripetta, not far from the Piazza Del Popolo.
It was an idea before its time. Today there are 21 McDonalds restaurants in Rome including locations near the Pantheon and the Fontana di Trevi.
In 2006, the Texas Dairy Queen Operators’ Council honored his with its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. At one time, he was International Dairy Queen’s largest franchisee with 101 Dairy Queen restaurants.
“In a friendship that spans 41 years, Barney was always the true friend. He was not only a personal friend but also a business associate. We watched our children play, travel and grow to adulthood and have families of their own,” said Shannon Thayer of Blanco, who, with her late husband Richard were Dairy Queen operators.
“We cried when part of our family was in pain and rejoiced at each success. He was there for me when my husband died, offering comfort and strength. He was never too busy to help or support a friend,” she said.
“Traveling with Barney probably is the most memorable. We had a club, FOB, Friends of Barney. And that is what we were, friends who liked to spend time together. I will miss him dearly,” Thayer said.
Mr. Chapman helped ranchers Jane Richardson and her late husband, Wade, get into the Dairy Queen business, but the relationship quickly moved from business to friendship.
“He was such an integral part of our life, introducing us to Italy and travel. Wade and Barney found closeness with us all ranching – going back to his family roots. Their children are like ours. He made more change in our family’s life than anyone. I will always be grateful,” she said.
Joe Usher of Fort Worth grew up in the Dairy Queen life and has known Mr. Chapman for his whole life.
“Barney personified what I thought a real Texan was like,” Usher said. “He was small in stature but had a big voice and was an old cowboy rancher.”
On the early trips to Italy. Mr. Chapman would ban shorts, running shoes and baseball caps for the travelers, telling them if they had a question of how to dress, they should dress as if they were going to a funeral.
“But in the end, he was wearing his boots and that big hat of his,” Usher said.
Usher met his wife, Stephanie, on a trip the month after 9-11.
“Barney liked to drive fast in Italy and his Italian was pretty good until we got stopped by the police. Then he couldn’t speak a lick of Italian,” Usher recalled.
The Chapman family can trace some branches back to land grants in 1844 in Texas.
Mr. Chapman’s great-grandfather, Bill, came to Texas after serving in the Confederate cavalry during the Civil War. He bought ranches across the state, ending up in Deaf Smith County in the Panhandle, Mr. Chapman said in a 2011 interview for an article in Fort Worth Texas magazine.
His father, I.B. Chapman Sr., lived on that ranch for 10 years — in a dugout.
“Ranch life in those days was a lot tougher than now,” Mr. Chapman said.
At one time, he owned seven ranches.
“We, of course, as kids, worked on these ranches and lived on them in the summers and weekends,” Mr. Chapman said.
I.B. Chapman Sr. started Quality Meat & Provision Co. Inc. in Fort Worth 1933 and operated it until he died in 1961, the year his son out of TCU at age 21.
Mr. Chapman and his brother John began operating Quality Meat & Provision – working long hours and seven days a week. He recognized the Dairy Queen potential when he saw the quantity of meat being ordered for the restaurants.
He also started Chapman Insurance around that time and sold livestock insurance on the weekends. At one point, he said, he had horses and cattle in insured in 33 states on a license that only permitted him to sell in Texas. There also were other business interests.
He bought the ranch near Clarksville in what some might consider a late in life decision.
“I have never really been out of the farming and ranching business since I was a youngster,” he said.
The family was forced to sell the Chapman & Son’s Registered Hereford Ranch near Valley Mills to pay inheritance taxes but remained in the farming and ranching business in a number of locations, including in far West Texas with 1,000-acre irrigated farm 82 miles east of El Paso.
Despite his love of ranch life, he chose to stay in Fort Worth for the sake of his children.
“I did not feel I could live in the country and offer the education I wanted for my children and so I stayed in town until they had all graduated from high school,” he said.
Mr. Chapman said not buying ranch land all along was a big mistake.
“It should not ever be too late in life for one to shift gears and start or re-engage a different or new career,” he said. “People that sit and rock, die.”
That was never a problem with him.
When he was deeply involved in the Dairy Queen business, he began organizing tours to his beloved Rome for DQ owners, and that branched into another business for him.
He grew close to Mennonite community near the ranch on the Red River and organized special trips to Rome and Israel just for them.
“We will have his funeral in their church, and this is the first time they have done this for someone that is not a member,” said daughter Giulia Chapman.
“Members have come by daily to check on us kids, to feed us and comfort us, and I don't know how we would have handled all that we are dealing with if it hadn't been for them,” she said.
Mr. Chapman also offered trips to Italy to members of Broadway Baptist Church where he was a member and a frequent visitor when he was back in town. He was fond of 10-gallon western hats and high-topped cowboy boots, and it was obvious when he was in the congregation.
He loved the attention.
For years until the death of his brother, John and Barney Chapman hosted a roundup and branding at a ranch they leased near Aledo.
The actual ranch work was done by professional cowboys and trusted family members, but others brought their horses and joined in an old-fashioned cattle drive.
Still other came to watch the work – and for the food.
The crowd could number more than 300 and might consume more than 130 pounds of beef fajitas, hundreds of biscuits Mr. Chapman made and cooked in Dutch ovens on the grounds and 50 pounds of deer and regular sausage, all cooked on site.
Often, there was a contingent of people who went to Valley Mills High School with the brothers.
Mr. Chapman loved Rome and Italy and loved being in charge of the tourist experience for friends and acquaintances.
But he could be a taskmaster of a tour director. He wanted people to see everything that he loved, and he was intolerant of people who were late to the bus or the walking tour.
When he wanted to get attention, he had a distinctive way of doing it. He would clap his hands in a specific rhythm – clap, clap, clap clap clap. Some of those who traveled with him adopted that in their own families.
“Barney made the world a smaller place for me. He opened up my eyes and gave me an appreciation for his love of Italy. Barney loved his family and his friends. If you were a friend of Barney’s, you were a friend for life,” Usher said.
“That was Barney. He was a promoter. If it wasn't Dairy Queen back in the day, it was the Fort Worth Stock Show. It was the old cowboy roundup with his brother. It was Italy. It was family.
“A lot of people were intimidated by Barney, but that was because they didn't know Barney. Barney was a gentleman,” Usher said.
He was preceded in death by his parents, I.B. Chapman Sr. and Edyth and his brothers, John and Billy Ray Chapman.
Survivors: Children: I.B.Trey Chapman III; Parrish H. Chapman; Carlo Papini; Roscoe G. Chapman; Flaminia G. Chapman (Cesare Terracina); Giulia G. Chapman (Giampiero Fonte); and Livia G. Melton (Patrick). Grandchildren: Lauren Collins (Eric); Rhiannon Chapman; Isabelle Chapman; Parrish B. Chapman; Alessia J.H. Papini; Hudson Melton; Victoria G. Fonte; Viola G. Fonte; Samuel Terracina; John Terracina; and Giuliana Melton. Great grandchildren: Taylor Collins and Laurie Collins.
A personal note: Barney Chapman was a close friend and all the immediate members of my family have traveled with him to Italy and especially to Rome, some multiple times. For several years I was Chief Cook at the Roundup and Branding.
Rest in peace, my brother.
– Paul K. Harral
Funeral: Thursday, Feb. 20, 10:30 a.m. at the Mennonite Church, 1746 FM 2573, Detroit, TX 75436), followed by lunch at the Mennonite Church fellowship hall. next to the Church. All are welcome for lunch. If possible, please RSVP if possible to Parrish Chapman firstname.lastname@example.org
A short graveside memorial service will follow at the Annetta Cemetery, 2667 W. FM 5 Road, Annetta, TX, at 4 p.m., followed by a reception at the Hudson Oaks Dairy Queen, 3205 Fort Worth Highway, Weatherford, Texas.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to the I.B. Chapman Sr. & Edyth Ann Lacy, Ranch Management scholarship at TCU. To donate please call TCU at 817-TCU-GIVE