SUBWAY co-founder Fred DeLuca passed away on Monday, just weeks after celebrating the company’s 50th anniversary. He was 67.

DeLuca and his business partner Dr. Peter Buck opened their submarine sandwich shop in Connecticut in 1965 when DeLuca was only 17 years old.

In 2013, while doing what he loved best, traveling around to visit with SUBWAY franchisees, DeLuca fell ill and was ultimately diagnosed with Leukemia. Since that time, he had been receiving treatment and still overseeing the brand as CEO but recently named his sister, Suzanne Greco, as president to run the day-to-day operations.

DeLuca leaves behind his wife, sister, son and members of his extended family – the thousands of team members that make up the SUBWAY brand around the world. He was proud of the work of his HQ staff and thousands of developers, franchisees, Sandwich Artists, suppliers and partners who he often and affectionately called “The Greatest Team in Franchising.”

An active member of the International Franchise Association, DeLuca was the recipient of numerous awards and accolades. He was also a supporter of many charitable organizations focused mainly on promoting self-sufficiency and education. Watch a special tribute to DeLuca.

“Fred was a pioneer,” said Chris Hellmann, vice president of The Coca-Cola Company's SUBWAY Global Business Team. "He’s the bedrock of what makes SUBWAY great, and his revolutionary approach to franchising forever changed the foodservice industry. From humble beginnings, his lifelong work focused on building a successful network of franchisees, development agents and Sandwich Artists. Because of Fred, the SUBWAY business has expanded to almost every corner of the globe and touched countless families, cultures and generations that make the SUBWAY brand so special. He will be deeply missed by his partners at Coca-Cola."