Captain Horatio Crunch, the World War II naval hero and cereal magnate died Thursday at Bethesda Naval Hospital. He was 98. A great commander who played a critical role in the defeat of Japan during World War II, Crunch retired from the navy in 1958 and made a fortune as the founder and mascot of the Cap’n Crunch Cereal brand.
Many expected Crunch to throw his trademark hat into the political ring upon his retirement, following in the footsteps of his dear friend Dwight Eisenhower, but he instead opted to take his sailboat The Guppy on a journey around the world with his wife Ramona Crunch. It was on that fateful trip in 1959 that Crunch came up with the idea for a cereal that would maintain its crunch when left in a bowl of milk for a prolonged period of time.
He immediately came back to his home in Lynchburg, Virginia and started working on his new cereal. His line of Cap’n Crunch cereals became a huge success, becoming the most popular children’s cereal from 1965-71. He was very active in the running of the business, appearing in commercials and donating a large portion of his profits to veterans’ causes.
Legal issues took a visible toll on the Captain in his later years, and he turned the business over to his son, Lt. Crunch. Several lawsuits from people who claimed that the cereal had cut the roof of their mouth, sustaining permanent damage threatened the Captain’s fortune. All of these were settled out of court for undisclosed amounts, but it had a profound effect on Crunch’s health and he was forced into a wheelchair.
Despite his failing health, Captain Crunch continued to appear in public to promote his cereal up until this last February when he choked on a crunch berry and needed to be hospitalized. Crunch will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery next to his close friend Colonel Sanders.