He started as a dishwasher-busboy at Pizza Hut and rose to be a regional manager. At the height of his career, he built and owned somewhere around 40 Pizza Huts plus a Sirloin Stockade. Marvin Day and his wife, Wanda Marie Ortery-Day, could have lived anywhere, but chose Mt. Pleasant. At one time or another Marvin was on just about every committee and board in Mt. Pleasant: Henry County Health Center, Two Rivers Bank, Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce, Iowa Wesleyan University, Mt. Pleasant Rec Center, Junior Achievement, Old Threshers, baseball and softball (both coaching and board member) and the Jaycees.
On Monday, December 20, 2021, at their winter home in Saddlebrooke, Arizona, 78-year old Marvin Day did something unusual—he bought a new pair of shoes. According to Wanda, he hardly ever bought anything for himself. They were going to go to Seattle for Christmas to see their son, Dr. Kris Day, and his family, and Marvin wanted to look sharp.
On Tuesday, Marvin told Wanda, “I think I’ll get a new pair of socks to go with those shoes.”
Wanda said, “Really?”
On Wednesday night, they went out for dinner. They were leaving for Seattle the next day and Marvin was unusually happy and giddy. He’s normally a quiet person, but a good listener. They talked about their kids and grandkids—they have five kids and 22 grandchildren—and their trip to Seattle. They ordered margaritas and Wanda started to take a sip. Marvin said, “Wait, let’s toast.” So they toasted their time together that night and their trip to Seattle. They had a wonderful evening. Marvin mentioned that he hadn’t gotten his new socks yet, and asked Wanda if she would go to Walmart and pick him up a pair while he went home and took care of some business.
Wanda said, “Sure.”
When Wanda returned home, the house was quiet. She hollered, “I’m home, Babe.” There was no answer. She found him sitting in his desk chair with his head to the side of his shoulder like he was taking a catnap. He was gone. She called 911 and attempted CPR, but it was too late.
Marvin Day had a number of health issues, but he was always positive, looked on the bright side of things, and was a friend to everyone. He had COPD, had survived a “widow maker” heart attack, prostate cancer and a brain bleed. He was extremely hard working and treated his employees like family. He had the unique ability to allow a person to be better than they would otherwise be.
In the 70’s he was on the road so often, building and managing Pizza Huts, he might be home only three days a month. But he maintained he was not a workaholic. He was good friends with another Mt. Pleasant icon, Ernie Hays. When Marvin introduced Wanda to Ernie, he asked Ernie to show Wanda his calendar. Ernie did and Wanda was flabbergasted. Ernie didn’t have a free day for months. Marvin said, “Now HE’s a workaholic.”
Marvin had tried college right out of high school but it wasn’t for him. However, he received an honorary Doctorate Degree from Iowa Wesleyan College later in life. Wanda and Marvin often didn’t know where their next dollar was coming from, but they were a team. She would tell him, “If you’re climbing the ladder and fall, you climb back on.” Marvin could procure a loan with a handshake, and believed, “You can have anything in life you want, if you’re willing to work for it.”
Wanda made sure her husband had his new shoes and socks on when he was buried. She wanted Marvin to look sharp when he met his old buddies, Ernie Hays, and former Mt. Pleasant Mayor, Ed King. The mold was broken when Marvin Day died.