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81-yr-old man whose family lives 'hundreds of miles away' becomes beloved Grandpa to local Dunkin' staff

Walker, who is a regular at the coffee shop, presented the owner Cobo with an envelope of $280 cash tobe distributed among the staff.

Image Source: Getty Images | Photo By Michael M. Santiago
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Retirement plans differ from person to person but one thing in common for all of us is wanting to spend time with our loved ones after we are done building our careers. Gilbert “Gil” Walker also had similar plans as he visited the coffee shop regularly to meet with his friends. However, the future had something else for him in store. He told TODAY, "I met with a bunch of retired guys normally—we agree on nothing and we solve nothing. We used to get around and tell lies, or whatever." 

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However, the COVID-19 pandemic changed this as social distancing became the norm and Walker could not meet with his friends anymore. He started looking for other options and places where he could just stay in his truck and still interact with people. This brought him to his neighborhood Dunkin' Donuts in Concord, California, where he has resided for the past 57 years. Walker, a high school teacher for over 40 years, began befriending the employees on his regular coffee run. Walker also started talking with the shop's owner, Matt Cobo. Walker said, "I asked if he had to lay anyone off and he said he had 14 employees and wanted to keep them but had to cut their hours." Walker thought of different ways he could help these people who have been so kind to him. Walker handed Cobo an envelope containing $280 in cash or $20 for each staff member. They were so overwhelmed by Walker's act of generosity that they began calling him "Grandpa" and accepted him as one of their own. 

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Cobo said, "We all felt it. We were scared. What Grandpa did that time was so much more than a gesture of kindness. He made us feel like things were going to be OK." Since then, there has been a kindness exchange between his workers and "Grandpa Gil." It's essentially been a very polite prank war, with Walker's family informing the staff of forthcoming milestones such as his birthday or anniversary with his wife, Virginia. Walker said, "It became a contest of how I could convince them to take my money and them not taking it. We’ve had a lot of maneuvering just to try to get money inside the door."

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As Walker and his wife celebrated 62 years of marriage, the crew surprised them with a Dunkin' smorgasbord. Walker's 81st birthday was celebrated in September with a celebration, a sign, and presents from the employees. They even sang a song for him and they "were just all teary-eyed." Cobo said, "No one can deserve it more than him. It’s been really fun." Walker, who has three daughters, thirteen grandchildren, and twenty great-grandchildren, claimed his closest relatives reside hundreds of miles away. However, the Dunkin' Donuts employees, largely teenagers and young adults, have been there for him during this pandemic. 

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He said, "Those kids kind of reminded me of my family. They were really nice and just treated me well every single day." The experience reminded Walker of a lesson he definitely passed on to the next generation. He said, "If you want to see the best in people, be as generous as you can and as nice as you can. You get to see a side of people you don’t normally see." 

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