At 93, World War II vet George Katzman has seen it all, but he’s never had a stranger pick up his tab at a restaurant on Veterans Day.
“It warmed my heart,” said the Aventura retiree, of the good deed bestowed on him. “In all my years, no one has ever done that for me.”
And he wants to thank the person responsible. “I would love to shake their hand.”
On Monday — Veterans Day — Katzman, wearing his World War II U.S. Army jacket, went to lunch with his wife, Ellen, and daughter, Susan Williams, at the Olive Garden in Plantation.
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He ordered pasta, soup and coffee. He knew as a veteran his meal was on the house — a tradition at the eatery. But he expected to pay the check for his wife and daughter, which should have been about $20.
As he sat at his table in his jacket, Katzman said other patrons came up to him and thanked him for his service. He told them it was a group effort. “I always wear my uniform on this day in honor of the men in my unit who did not make it back.”
Katzman, a New York native who moved to South Florida 60 years ago, served in the European theater in Nazi Germany and Czechoslovakia from 1943-46 and was part of the liberation forces under Gen. George Patton who entered the concentration camps.
After their meal, he asked for the check.
“The waitress said it was all paid for,” Katzman said. “I couldn’t believe it. It really moved me.”
Ellen Katzman said the waitress told them a party sitting behind them had paid the entire bill. “She said they had even taken care of the tip,” she said.
Katzman, a retired salesman and adjunct professor, said he suspects two women who came to his table and fussed over him. “What a nice thing to do.”
Could it have been the restaurant?
A manager at Olive Garden Monday night said the rule is that vets eat for free and their party receives 10 percent off their tab.
“I know it wasn’t the restaurant because we ordered a dessert just as the ladies were leaving and we had to pay for that,” Ellen Katzman said.
When he got home, Katzman continued thinking about the good deed. A few hours later, he decided to call the Miami Herald and tell his story. “With all the bad news in the world, I thought this was good news to show that people can still be so kind.”
Miami Herald staffer Suzy Mast contributed to this report.