UPDATE DEC. 4 4:27 P.M.: Check the end of the post for Taco Bell's official statement re: Todd Mills and the invention of the Doritos Locos Taco.
ORIGINAL POST DEC. 4 6:30 A.M.: Todd Mills, the Arkansas man who helped create the Taco Bell Doritos Locos Tacos, passed away on Thanksgiving from brain cancer. He was 41. He is survived by his wife, two daughters and every single person who has ever eaten a Locos Taco.
As massive as the tacos have been (Taco Bell sold over $1 billion worth alone last year), Mills would have lived a very full life even without the tacos.
USA Today has the definitive obit, and you should read it, but here's a tl;dr and a few Mills Life Moments that didn't make the USA Today cut:
* Mills didn't receive much from his idea's success. Frito Lay flew him out to California to tour their factory and he was one of the first to try the taco, but that about ends it for compensation.
* Mills' creative genius (which he used during his day job as VP of communications at the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce) helped to realize the taco idea. He photoshopped pictures of celebrities with Doritos taco shells to build buzz.
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* Mills is a veteran, having served in the Air Force. He was part of Pres. Bill Clinton's personal escort when the president was in Arkansas and worked with his dog Henry as part of rescue at the 1996 Summer Olympics Bombing in Atlanta.
Mills' family is accepting donations to help cover funeral and medical bills here. Taco Bell's donated $1,000, but maybe they can find some extra taco money lying around to give a little more.
UPDATE DEC. 4 4:27 P.M.: "We know this is a tragic time for Todd's family," said Taco Bell Representative Jenna Rathke. "He was a huge Taco Bell fan. He was passionate about the Doritos Locos Taco, and although he did not invent it, he founded a Facebook page to drum up support. In light of his passion, we invited him to be one of the first to try it. He became a true friend of the brand, so when we learned of his ill health, we made a $1,000 donation towards his medical expenses. We will miss Todd very much and our hearts are with his family and friends in this difficult time."