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Creator of Slush Puppies dead at age 74

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CINCINNATI >> Will Radcliff, who built a multimillion-dollar global business from flavored, icy Slush Puppie drinks, has died in Cincinnati. He was 74.

His daughter DeeAnn Radcliff Harmon said Radcliff died Thursday in hospice care after his health declined following a recent fall.

Radcliff was a natural salesman who once peddled vacuum cleaners door-to-door and earned a six-figure income from selling peanuts.

“He had a bigger-than-life personality,” his daughter said Friday. “He could sell anything to anybody.”

Radcliff had spotted a slush machine at a 1970 Chicago trade show and saw the possibilities of icy sweet drinks that could be made for a few pennies. He thought the sound of icy crystals hitting the cup, the smell and taste of flavorings and the texture pleased all the senses.

The family story goes that he, sister Phyllis and their mother, Thelma, sat on a front porch drinking beer and writing down possible names on a brown paper bag before agreeing that Slush Puppie was the best candidate. It would become represented by a toboggan-wearing, floppy-eared dog.

Cherry, grape, orange and lemon-lime were among the earliest flavors. Sales boomed and business spread, with Slush Puppie machines becoming a staple in many convenience stores. Distributorships from Australia to Africa made Slush Puppie global, and London-based Cadbury Schweppes PLC bought the Slush Puppie Company in 2001.

Radcliff also had a frozen cocktail business, among other business operations.

Harmon said her father’s first regular job was shining shoes at a country club, and he later kept a vow to return to the club someday as a member.

Radcliff owned a 4,000-acre ranch in Umatilla, Florida, and worked for land conservation amid central Florida’s growth, his daughter said. He had a Lear jet he piloted himself many times, she said.

She said he had many favorite sayings that guided his life, such as “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” ”If it ain’t fun, to hell with it,” and “Once you break through the clouds, it’s always sunny.”

Willard Lawson Radcliff was born in Dayton, Kentucky. He is survived by his daughter, son Chris Radcliff, a brother and sister, and four grandchildren. Mueller Funeral Home of Mason, Ohio, is handling arrangements.

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