Tom and Cheryl LeBeau were married in Gatlinburg in the early 1980s around the time Fannie Farkle’s opened. While in Gatlinburg for their wedding, the couple visited the newly opened Fannie Farkle’s to eat its now-famous food and play its huge selection of arcade games. They didn’t know it at the time, but that visit was the beginning of a life-long series of trips to Gatlinburg’s legendary Fannie Farkle’s.
Tom LeBeau ran a family business and moved his family from Michigan to North Carolina to Florida over the years – but he always returned annually to the Smoky Mountains and Fannie Farkle’s. As their family grew, Tom and Cheryl shared their special relationship with Fannie Farkle’s with their three children – Tommy, Talena and Talisha.
Cheryl LeBeau said, “We traveled to Gatlinburg two or three times a year since the 1980s. I feel like we raised our kids at Fannie Farkle’s. It was a special place for all of us – but it was really a special place for Tom. We all love the food there and the atmosphere of the arcade is so fun.”
Over the past four decades, Tom won so many prizes at Fannie Farkle’s that he was able to get everyone in his extended family gifts from the arcade for birthdays and holidays. Prizes from Fannie Farkle’s range from stuffed animals to televisions, video games and bicycles. All of Tom’s siblings (he had nine brothers and sisters) and his endless grandchildren, nieces, and nephews, knew of his love for Fannie Farkle’s.
Tyanna LeBeau, Tom’s sister, said, “When we would walk through the doors at Fannie Farkle’s, the workers would recognize Tom and go in the back to get his special coffee mug. Tom loved coffee and they kept a mug there just for him. It was like he was part of the Fannie Farkle’s family.”
Last week, more than 40 members of Tom LeBeau’s family arrived in Gatlinburg and headed straight to Fannie Farkle’s. They had prepared a plaque for Fannie Farkle’s with a picture of Tom and his game card. Marion Paul, the owner of Fannie Farkle’s was on hand to accept the plaque which she quickly placed in a prominent location at the entrance to the arcade and restaurant.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Paul said. “Tom was a fixture at Fannie Farkle’s over the years. It was so special and touching to hear what a big part we played in this family’s memories. It’s why we work so hard to take care of our customers – this is so much more than a business to us. As we celebrate our 40th Anniversary this year, this is a great reminder about the role we play in people’s lives.”
To everyone’s surprise, Tom’s game card (which stores the points players win on arcade games at Fannie Farkle’s) had just under 1 million points on it. It was a Fannie Farkle’s record. Everyone in the LeBeau family was able to split the points for an outrageous number of Fannie Farkle’s prizes.
According to Marion Paul, the plaque honoring and remembering Tom LeBeau will remain at the front entrance of Fannie Farkle’s forever.