The death of Ellis Michael Boury this week marks the end of an era for a portion of the Ohio Valley's business community.
At 88, Boury was the last of the three brothers, who included George and Michael, all household names for decades in the restaurant and appliance business.
Ellis Boury was a 1942 graduate of Wheeling High School. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II aboard the USS Ringness APD 100, best known for rescuing 39 survivors of the USS Indianapolis. The more soft-spoken of the three brothers, Ellis was proud of his military service although he was not a boastful man, according to those who knew him.
After serving in the Navy, he returned to Wheeling and began working in the family business, the Boury Inc. appliance store. In 1956, he and his brothers opened the first Elby's Big Boy restaurant on National Road in Wheeling. The restaurants with their famed red, black and white Big Boy statues out front, were iconic, growing to 75 in number across the country.
The brothers also expanded their business interests to include Factory Glass Outlet/Gift shops, The Best Western Wheeling Inn, TriAd advertising, Boury Inc. Design and Construction and other business enterprises. By the 1980s, the Boury businesses employed more than 6,500 people, which was a source of great pride for Ellis Boury.
Bill Bryson, owner of Uniglobe Travel in Wheeling, worked for the Bourys for many years, learning the ins and outs of the business world. He said the experience of working for them has proven to be invaluable in his own business today.
"It was a great time working for the Bourys. I learned a great deal from them and still use those things in my work today," Bryson said.
He noted that during the 1980s, Ellis spearheaded a number of expansions for the family business.
"It was an extremely exciting time then," Bryson added. "We had a lot of fond memories of the organization during my time with the organization."
The three Boury brothers founded the Elby's Distance Race in 1976, which drew runners from across the United States and many other countries.
Ellis Boury is survived by his wife, Jacqualine Gates Boury, his children and grandchildren. Funeral Mass will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Michael Catholic Church, Wheeling, with burial at Mount Calvary Cemetery. Arrangements are being handled by Altmeyer Funeral Home in Elm Grove.