Joseph “Joe” Tortorice Jr., a Beaumont native and Texas A&M graduate who founded Jason’s Deli in 1976, died Saturday.

According to the Beaumont Enterprise, the 70-year-old had fought a 19-month battle with cancer.

Tortorice was a commanding officer in the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets, which helped expand his leadership skills, his cousin RC Tortorice told the newspaper. Joe Tortorice was elected outstanding freshman and sophomore in a cadet battalion of 400 people. He graduated in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

“It had a big impact on him,” RC Tortorice told the Enterprise. “He was always a leader, but in a humble way. If you were talking to him, you would never know any of this. He wouldn’t tell you. He always wanted to give credit to anyone else. He was never flamboyant.”

Joe Tortorice met his wife, Shelley, while he was at Texas A&M, and the couple had three children, Ashley, Jay and Rob.

Jason’s Deli eventually expanded the chain more than 250 locations in 28 states.

Funeral arrangements are pending at Broussard’s Funeral Home in Beaumont.

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