He met his wife there and married her after 90 days of courting in 1945.
Ten years later, on Labor Day, the first Waffle House opened on College Avenue in Avondale Estates. The pair had figured the city needed a 24-hour restaurant.
“Tom and my father had a handshake deal, and their partnership and friendship continued for more than 60 years,” Joe Rogers Jr. said. “Tom and Joe were great partners.”
Forker stuck with the business side of the company as it grew into a Southern icon, leaving Rogers to customer relations.
“Joe told me to open a restaurant and he’d show me how to run it,” Forkner once said.
The two largely phased themselves out of the day-to-day by the 1970s. That was after they’d opened 400 restaurants.
They still spent time at the corporate headquarters in Norcross even in their mid-80s.
Forkner also took up golf. As a senior citizen, he won state and international championships. He was inducted into the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame in 2007.
Waffle House now has more than 1,900 restaurants across the country.
A memorial is set for Sunday at 3 p.m. at Norcross First United Methodist Church, 2500 Beaver Ruin Road. In lieu of flowers, Waffle House said contributions may be made to the Giving Kitchen, which helps Atlanta area restaurant workers; the Georgia Junior Golf Association, which helps youth golfers; or the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Video: 12 things you didn't know about Waffle House