Richard Hyatt

Unknown angel surprises diners

She was an angel with a generous heart and a pretty healthy bank account — and no one knows her name.

On Friday a week ago, 18 fellows who are no longer in their teens met for lunch at Ruth Ann’s, just as they do every week. Their ages range from the mid 70s to the mid 90s.

One of the men is a retired psychiatrist who frequently wears a baseball cap that reminds everyone that he is a World War II vet.

A good time was had by all, until it came time for the server to bring them their checks. She then announced that someone had already paid their bills.

This wasn’t a check for just a plate of a meat and two vegetables. This check had to cost more than $200. Who would pay that much?

“I can’t tell you,” the server explained.

Several old lawyers are regulars in that group, and they started to interrogate the waitress. Even after their grilling, the only thing she would confirm is that the gift-giver was a woman, and that she was an Army medic.

No one at the table ever saw their benefactor, and no one at Ruth Ann’s would give them her name, even if they knew it. That is not how you play the game of pay-it-forward.

In a military town, it is not unusual for civilians to pick up the tab for young soldiers, but this was a twist on that routine. This was a soldier paying the bill for a bunch of fellows who were much too old for active duty.

Maybe she noticed the World War II cap that the old shrink wore and assumed all of his friends were all members of Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation, or maybe she just missed her own grandpa.

No one knows the reason, and those 18 fellows wish they knew the rest of the story. They did discover that the female soldier was about to be deployed to Afghanistan.

Whatever her name, rank and serial number, she is now on the prayer list of a group of grateful men who wish they knew her name. They pray she comes home safely so that one day they can buy her lunch.

Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at