However, DeLuca's path to success and a multibillion fortune from transforming a single sandwich shop into what's now a fast-food behemoth started with humble beginnings.
During his childhood, DeLuca spent a hefty chunk of his time in the Bronx, a borough of New York City, while his father was a factory worker, according to the New York Times. At 10 years old, the family moved to the Schenectady area before settling in Bridgeport, Conn.
After graduating from Central High School in 1965, DeLuca worked at a hardware shop to garner up enough funds in order to pursue his dream of studying medicine. However, he quickly learned his pay would not cover the hefty cost of college, the Times reported. So, the young 17-year-old was forced to find alternate ways to pay for his education. That's when he struck up a conversation with his family friend and nuclear physicist Peter Buck.
Buck suggested that he open a submarine sandwich shop and even provided an initial investment of $1,000 to help him to do so. Together, they co-founded the first sandwich shop, “Pete’s Super Submarines,” in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The shop sold over 300 sandwiches the first day it opened with each costing between 49 and 69 cents.
The name was changed to "Subway” in 1968, and the pair decided to fuel growth by franchising or letting others open Subway stores in exchange for fees. By 1988, Subway had 2,000 locations. By 1990, it reached the 5,000-store mark. And by 1994, it had more than 8,000 locations.
DeLuca, a Brooklyn native, was seen known for a hands-on approach as president and CEO of the chain by personally signing company checks, making corporate decisions and traveling around to various franchises throughout the country, the Times reported.
In July 2013, Subway announced that DeLuca had been diagnosed with leukemia.
According to the company, DeLuca was in regular contact with his management team, but on a reduced basis as he received treatment. DeLuca passed away two years later, just weeks after the 50th anniversary of Subway.
Subway, based in Milford, Connecticut, is privately held and doesn’t publicly report its financial performance or executive pay packages. But in 2015, Forbes magazine pegged DeLuca’s net worth at $3.5 billion, making him the 259th-richest individual in the United States.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.