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Born in Santa Rosa in 1925, Don Mallory became a man while working at his family’s downtown auto parts, repair and machine shop, Mallory Bros. Then all his life he fixed and built and enhanced and invented things.

The perpetually cheery and enterprising World War II veteran was approaching 90 when he hired on as the dining room host at the Chick-fil-A restaurant across from Santa Rosa Junior College. There he noted how very often the trash cans had to be emptied of bulky paper cups, plates, wrappers and such.

Mallory went to work designing and perfecting a compacting tool — the BAM-BAM — that allows for fewer employee trips to the dumpster. Today Mallory’s hand-held refuse compressor is used at several Chick-fil-A restaurants and is part of his legacy.

The father of seven, grandfather of 15, great-grandfather of 24 and great-great-grandfather of three, with a fourth on the way, died at his Santa Rosa home on New Year’s Day. He was 91.

At one point amid his final hours, daughter Cynthia Ann Humphrey assured him that she and her husband, Steve, would take up his effort to get the BAM-BAM into more fast-food restaurants.

Humphrey said her dad replied, “Oh, good. That will be good.”

It was 1939 and Don Mallory was 14 when he took his place at Mallory Bros., a wrecking yard and all-things-automotive enterprise founded in 1906 on Second Street, where the transit mall is now. It was run at the time by Mallory’s father, John “J.K.” Mallory, and two of the senior Mallory’s brothers.

By the time Don Mallory was 15 and a student at Santa Rosa High, he was driving a Mallory Bros. parts delivery truck throughout the region. Wiry and restless, he also ran on the school’s track team.

World War II raged when he graduated in 1943. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy, which utilized his substantial mechanical experience by making him an aviation machinist.

In 1944, Mallory married Betty Glenn Parker of Yreka, whom he’d loved since they met as teens at a Christian revival in St. Helena. They celebrated their 72nd anniversary this past June. After the war, the couple returned to Santa Rosa and Don Mallory and his brothers, Kirby and Odell, bought Mallory Bros. from their father and uncles.

Mallory Bros. was an innovative and diverse enterprise until a variety of forces put it out of business in 1966. Don Mallory turned his energies to land development and property management, and for a time supervised building maintenance at the Christian Life Center, now the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts. He purchased the former Lyon-Magnus maraschino cherry processing plant in Sebastopol and worked for years to convert it to a country retail center — he planned to call it Apple Sauce Alley. But it never came together.

While working in property management and development, he also bought old cars, restored them and sold them. “He was always into projects,” daughter Humphrey said.

Mallory was 74 and semi-retired when his working career came full circle. Prestige Imports of Santa Rosa hired him to pick up and deliver auto parts. That job led him to help create and operate a customers relations department at Prestige.

Mallory had retired again when he learned in 2013 that a Chick-fil-A restaurant and drive-through was going up on Santa Rosa’s Mendocino Avenue. A lifelong Christian, he appreciated that the Georgia-based chain closed its restaurants on Sundays.

When franchisee Jason Sutton opened the Santa Rosa location in the summer of ’13, Mallory went in to welcome it and try the food. While speaking in his animated fashion to Sutton, he may have mentioned some of the work he’d done in his life and how he was always looking for ways to make things better, more efficient and customer-friendly.

At some point, the new Chick-fil-A owner handed Mallory a sheet of paper. “What’s this?” asked the WWII vet and retired master of several trades. Sutton replied, “It’s a job application.”

Mallory told him he wasn’t looking for work. Sutton came back, “We want you on our team.”

So at age 88, Mallory suited up sharply and went to work greeting and assisting visitors to the Chick-fil-A. Soon on, he noticed a problem with the waste cans: they filled up quickly, creating a nuisance for diners and requiring employees to press down the trash with their hands and frequently lug garbage bags to the dumpster.

Mallory pondered how to get more trash into each bag. It came to him: a hand-held trash compactor.

At home, he made a prototype with a short piece of composite decking material — the stomping head — attached to one end of a wooden handle. Refinements followed.

Mallory requested and was granted permission to try it out at the Santa Rosa Chick-fil-A. The BAM-BAM was a hit: Employees compressed trash in the dining-room cans, saving money by reducing trips to the large trash bin while remedying the unpleasant look of waste piled high in receptacles.

“We definitely use it,” said the restaurant’s manager, Liz Dillard. She said Mallory brought greater efficiency to Chick-fil-A with his invention, but more importantly he charmed the place with his presence.

“He was really, really special to a lot of people,” Dillard said. “To me personally he definitely was a big impact.”

Mallory sent BAM-BAMs to several of the nation’s more than 2,000 Chick-fil-A restaurants, urging that chainwide use of the simple tool would save millions of dollars currently spent on trips to dumpsters. He was pursuing a goal to make a business of the manual trash compactor and to sell them nationwide when, earlier this year, he was sidelined by advancing osteoporosis and resulting compression fractures to his spine.

Much of Mallory’s family was with the longtime member of Healdsburg’s Evangel Assembly of God when he died Sunday night.

Preceded in death by son David Charles Mallory, he is survived by his wife; his daughter, Humphrey, in Santa Rosa, and his other children, Donna Lee Peoples of Woodland, Susan Carol Nabors of Solon, Iowa; Patricia Gail Kelley of Nice, Don Franklin Mallory Jr. of Conway, Arkansas, and Janet Gay Corriea of Windsor; and by his three generations of grandchildren. A viewing from 10 to 11 a.m. on Jan. 20 at the Vineyard of Faith Church in Windsor will be followed by funeral services with military honors. Private interment will be in the Mallory family plot at Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery.