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Cinnabon creator dies

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God bless that artery-clogging man and his wonderful creation!

BTW, Alzheimer's disease is not funny, but you have to find humor in the irony of the last line of this article.

Ray Lindstrom helped create original Cinnabon

It was a quirky 50th-birthday gift for a corporate CEO: a purple-and-gold Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

But it captured a bit of Raymond "Ray" Lindstrom, an entertaining and warm-spirited man who always was on the go.

"He was so much fun. He made everyone feel like they were his best friend," said his wife, Jackie Lindstrom. "He just had this openness and this charm and this twinkle. And I know at the memorial, when I say, 'I lost my best friend,' half of the people seated there will feel the same way."

Mr. Lindstrom, who helped create several signature Seattle restaurants and the original Cinnabon pastry, died Aug. 15 at his Bellevue home. He was 63 and suffered from early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

While Mr. Lindstrom's business peers knew him for his corporate success with Restaurants Unlimited, developing the concepts behind Cutters Bayhouse, Palomino and Palisade, his friends and family remember his adventurous spirit and recreational exploits.

He loved to fish, go clamming and crabbing, ski at Whistler, B.C., and ride his motorcycle, dubbed the Husky Harley.

Mr. Lindstrom was born in Honolulu in 1943 and grew up in Opportunity, on the outskirts of Spokane. His popular leadership style emerged early; he was elected student-body president at Central Valley High School.

He served in the Reserve Officers Training Corps during his college years at the University of Washington, and upon his 1965 graduation entered active duty with the Army Corps of Engineers and was stationed in Thailand as a first lieutenant. He returned to Seattle in 1967, and in 1971 he earned his master's degree in business administration from the UW.

Mr. Lindstrom then launched his 25-year career with Seattle-based Restaurants Unlimited. An interview with company founder Rich Komen landed him a job in Tacoma, overseeing the final construction and opening of a Clinkerdagger's. By 1973, he controlled all restaurant operations, and in 1979 became company president. He rose to chief executive officer before leaving the company in 1996 to pursue personal projects.

"Rich and Ray were a great one-two team," said Rick Giboney, Restaurant Unlimited's senior vice president of development. "Rich was more of a conceptual visionary, and Ray was the operational leader. He was cheerful, he was upbeat — very motivating. He took our business seriously, but he insisted on not taking ourselves personally too seriously."

Mr. Lindstrom married three times. He and his first wife, Laurie Sneva, were married from 1970 to 1978 and had two sons, Jeff and Greg Lindstrom. He married Cathi Hatch the next year; they had a daughter, Katie Lindstrom, before divorcing in 1993. He remarried two years later.

Perhaps his most lasting contribution will be the role he played in developing Cinnabon, a mainstay of malls throughout North America. In the mid-1980s in Kansas City, Komen came up with the concept of cinnamon rolls as a specialty food, and his team set about creating a memorable one. They flew all over the country sampling rolls, then hired Edmonds restaurateur Jerilyn Brusseau.

"It was an extraordinary experience," said Brusseau, who worked closely with Mr. Lindstrom for months, producing two to four test batches every day. "It really was one of the highlights of my culinary career. There was such vision and incredible passion for creating the world's greatest cinnamon roll."

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue, 1717 Bellevue Way N.E. A reception will follow at Palisade, at the Elliott Bay Marina in Seattle. Remembrances may be sent to the Alzheimer's Association.


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