Dalomi Harden, Harden's restaurants co-founder, dies at 99
BY TIM STANLEY World Staff Writer
Sunday, September 02, 2012
9/02/12 at 4:56 AM
They went together like, well, hamburgers and fried chicken.
And for Dalomi and Johney Harden, that was a hard-to-beat combination.
In building a long-standing Tulsa-area tradition from those fast-food staples, Johney might've become the better known of the pair. But from the beginning, family members say, Dalomi was every bit his partner.
"She was very much the force behind him," said Jo Endsley, the couple's daughter.
The partnership started with Harden's Hamburgers, a restaurant that eventually would expand to several locations.
A few years later the couple introduced Kentucky Fried Chicken to Tulsa with its first area franchise.
Next, after perfecting a chicken recipe of their own, they opened Harden's Fried Chicken.
But whether at a restaurant site or at their annual Tulsa State Fair tent, where they sold their burgers and chicken to fairgoers for almost 40 years, the Hardens were an inseparable team.
"Mom was a quiet person, but she always was a big part of what he did. And he adored her," Endsley said.
Dalomi M. Harden died Tuesday. She was 99.
A service was held Friday at Memorial Park Cemetery Chapel. Moore's Eastlawn Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.
Johney Harden, her husband of 66 years, died in 2001.
One of eight children born to a family of western Oklahoma sharecroppers, Dalomi met Johney in Mountain View in 1934.
He was working in a café there, learning the restaurant business, when she came in with her sister.
"He already knew her sister and asked her, 'Who is that cute girl?' " Endsley said.
They didn't date for long before getting married.
Moving to Tulsa five years later, Johney Harden opened his first restaurant, Johney's Gyp Joint, on Sixth Street between Boston and Cincinnati avenues.
Dalomi Harden didn't help much with that restaurant; she was "too busy having children," Endsley said.
But when he later opened Harden's Hamburgers at 4004 E. 11th St., she was there with him full time.
While her husband manned the grill, she worked the cash register or did whatever was needed.
They would work side-by-side for many years, family members say.
In 1958, the couple bought Tulsa's first KFC franchise, selling the chicken initially out of their hamburger place before opening several carryout chicken outlets.
They eventually sold them and later introduced Harden's Fried Chicken, which debuted in 1973.
The Hardens' restaurants would have several locations over the years throughout the Tulsa area. By 1989, however, they had sold them all. Two Harden's Hamburgers locations remain.
After retirement, the couple moved to Naples, Fla. But they came back to Tulsa every year for the State Fair.
They served hamburgers and fried chicken at their fair tent for nearly 40 years.
The Hardens might have looked mismatched at first glance: Johney, topping 6 feet tall, towered over Dalomi's petite 4-foot-9 frame.
But that wasn't the case, Endsley said.
"You never heard them fight or argue," she said. "They were always together, just hard-working people."
Dalomi Harden's survivors include three daughters, Jo Endsley, Patricia Sue Clark and Charlene Stevens; a son, Gordon Harden; 12 grandchildren; 28 great-grandchildren; five great-great-grandchildren; and her brother, Jerry Gordon.
Original Print Headline: Businesswoman kept the burgers, chicken coming
Tim Stanley 918-581-8385
Dalomi and Johney Harden introduced Kentucky Fried Chicken to the Tulsa area in 1958 after opening Harden's Hamburgers. Courtesy