My neighbor Annie emailed me about a “most delightful” scene she witnessed while shopping at a Publix grocery store in Hilton Head, S.C., where she has a vacation property. An announcement sounded over the store’s P.A. system about a customer’s birthday: Frank Ventre is 101 years old.
Annie said the Publix staff had thoughtfully prepared and presented a few small birthday gifts representing Frank’s interests, including orange cupcakes for Syracuse, N.Y., and a few blue and white goodies to delight him in his passion for the New York Yankees.
“Where else in the modern world on a busy Saturday afternoon would a food store go to such lengths for a regular customer?” said Annie.
While Frank was being presented with the Yankees gifts (one an autograph signed “To Frank”) the gentleman spoke in great lengths about the team’s 27 championships, what city they were playing in that day, and where they would be playing in upcoming away games. Frank knew his facts.
When he nostalgically mentioned how he wished he could again attend a game some day, but that “the tickets are too expensive,” Annie approached him. Without mentioning who her neighbor is, she said she might be able to help him grant his wish. That’s when she emailed me to ask Ken if it was possible to obtain tickets.
Frank is now making plans to attend the game against the Tampa Bay Rays July 17 in New York. Ken laughed just now glancing at the schedule while he double-checked the date for me. “Huh! How about that? It’s Old-Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium.”
No pun intended, Frankie.
When Ken had relayed this story to the Yankees PR office, they sent Frank a letter inviting him onto the field before the game. His 68-year-old son will accompany him to the Big Apple and his daughter (who he lives with) is treating them to the airfare.
A little old-timer recognition can go a long way.
“Oh my, I can’t believe it!” Frank relayed to Annie who told me, “He is so very excited!” (If you knew Annie, you’d know how she gets big kicks out of helping people – strangers and friends. It’s just the way she’s wired … Angel Annie … one of the last of the good Samaritans.)
Healthy still at 101, Frank goes to the gym regularly. He uses the treadmill, stationary bike and free weights. He’s 100 percent Italian – a sweet, entertaining man, reports Annie about her new friend. And believe me, they will be Hilton Head Island friends for sure.
“Hats off to the Publix staff that took time and effort merely to be nice,” said Annie, “and to make an amazing old man feel very special.”
This, she said, was truly a great example of “publix” affection.