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University of Texas at Austin icon the “Wendy’s Guy” has died at 60. Beloved as a viral star by thousands, the crowd-pleasing cashier’s life was marred by personal turmoil and tragedy. But the community he served for so long is rallying behind to give something back one last time.
When the student union staple fell into homelessness two years ago, his fans responded generously.
Wendy’s restaurant worker Ishmael Mohammed Jr., better known as “Junior,” was fast at his job and courteous to his customers, setting a world record in 2005 for sales at a fast-food restaurant—246 in 30 minutes. When a student discovered he was homeless in 2014, a GoFundMe account was set up in his name to help with his expenses. The initial goal was $2,000. More than 1,500 people donated more than $30,000 to help get Mohammed off the streets.
According to Guerin, Junior was found unconscious at a local bus stop last Friday and was rushed to the emergency room. He was believed to have fallen, and doctors found severe bleeding in his brain. He was pronounced dead Monday morning, and now, she’s asking for help with his funeral expenses.
The way Guerin describes it, her dad wasn’t in her life for much of the time and she “spent a long time not even knowing where he was.” But “everyone that I have spoken to that knew him [said] he brought a lot of joy to those students’ lives daily.”
The affection spurred a 2006 documentary on Junior’s cash register mastery.
For all of his viral fame, Guerin told the Daily Dot, Junior’s life was plagued by a personal battle with alcoholism. She said the $30,000 crowdfunded by students in 2014 went a long way toward normalcy.
“I feel like them raising that money for him gave him an extra two years of life,” Guerin said. “He was off the streets; he had a roof over his head.”
She said Junior was “never was able to recover” when he ran out of funding in February, though she said it had been about a year since she’d seen him.
“It was sad to see him over the last couple years because it’s not who he was—he just lost his way,” Guerin said.
But Junior—who relocated to Austin from New York City when Guerin, 34, was a teenager—loved all of his localized fame. He was an iconic figure.
“He held on to that—that meant so much to him,” Guerin said.
Junior will be cremated, and Guerin said that there will be a private procession with her and his two other children. His son, Zach, wrote on the GoFundMe page that his job will cover those costs.
But that leaves the thousands of students who ate five nuggets, a double cheeseburger, and fries on a near-daily basis down at the Union. Students who spent their college years marveling at Junior’s exuberant personality and gifted fingers.
And that’s why the money Guerin is raising will go toward what she called a “celebration for him that everyone can attend that he knew. So many people want to say their goodbyes and tell their stories.”
Her GoFundMe campaign has raised $1,600 as of press time. The Daily Dot will update this story once details of his public service are made public.
Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.
Ramon Ramirez is the news director, and formerly the Dot's entertainment editor and evening editor. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Grantland, Washington City Paper, Austin American-Statesman, and Austin Monitor.