Deaths Elsewhere

Deaths Elsewhere

July 21, 2005

Gerry Thomas, 83, who changed the way Americans eat - for better or worse - with his invention of the TV Dinner during the baby boom years, died of cancer Monday in Phoenix, Ariz.

Mr. Thomas was a salesman for Omaha, Neb.-based C.A. Swanson and Sons in 1954 when he got the idea of packaging frozen meals in a disposable aluminum-foil tray, divided into compartments to keep the foods from mixing. He also gave the product its singular name.

The first Swanson TV Dinner - turkey with cornbread dressing, gravy, sweet potatoes and buttered peas - cooked in 25 minutes at 425 degrees.

Mr. Thomas was rewarded with a bump in pay to $300 a month and a $1,000 bonus. "I didn't complain. A thousand dollars was a lot of money back then," he said.

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