85-Year-Old Widower Working as Janitor to Raise 2 Adopted Grandsons Receives $75,000 After Chance Meeting
After his beloved wife’s tragic and unexpected demise, an older man was left heartbroken and had to work hard to provide for his special needs adopted grandchildren. One day at work, he ran into an old colleague who was deeply moved by his story and decided to help.
Wendall and Della Gill, from Lexington, Kentucky, had known each other for a long time and had been together since they were teenagers. As time passed, their love blossomed, and eventually, the couple decided to tie the knot, vowing to stay true to their feelings for the rest of their lives.
Through the highs and lows of life, the Gills held hands and weathered all the storms together. One day in late August 2018, Wendall had a day off from work, so he and Della began running errands. Afterward, they made a brief stop at the Lexington, Kentucky McDonald’s, where Wendall was an employee.
Losing His Beloved
The spouses were tired and hungry and wished to grab breakfast together. While their order was being taken care of, Della told her husband she was going to use the washroom, but unfortunately, she never returned. After waiting for her to come back, Wendall became worried and decided to check what was wrong.
Todd, who had become a financial planner after leaving his McDonald’s job, felt a strong urge to do something for the Gill family.
Sadly, what he then learned shattered his heart into a million pieces. His beloved wife of 63 years had passed out in the washroom after suffering an aneurysm. Della, 83, was immediately taken to the hospital, where she took her last breath only days later, leaving Wendall forever broken.
He Had to Keep Going
Instead of taking time off work to grieve and honor his late wife’s memory, Wendall continued to show up to his job every day. It was heart-wrenching to see him take out trash and clean the restrooms, considering that he had witnessed his beloved die in one of them.
Wendall had been employed at the Richmond Road McDonald’s for 44 years and couldn’t afford to leave work. He wasn’t bothered about himself but worried for the two special needs grandkids he and Della adopted years ago. They needed him, and he couldn’t just walk away or turn his back on them.
A Chance Meeting with an Old Friend
One day at work in September, Wendall ran into an old friend and former McDonald’s employee, Todd Oldfield, who stopped by for a quick meal. The two met decades ago, in June 1978, when Todd got his first job. Regarding their first encounter and how much had changed since then, Todd shared:
“I just thought [Wendall] was a neat, old guy. Now, I’m 10 years older than he was then.”
As they sat down and chatted, Todd was taken aback when he learned about Wendall’s predicament. The senior citizen told him that his wife of more than six decades had tragically passed away, leaving him and their adopted grandkids alone and crippled.
Helping His Lost & Devastated Friend
In a crowdfunding page created to support Wendall in the winter of his life, Todd wrote, “Wendall is devastated; lost; totally empty now. Wendall has to keep working right there in the store, walking past this restroom, cleaning it daily. He has no money. He has to keep going…he has to keep strong.”
Wendall’s eldest adopted grandson, John Columbia, 33, had autism, while the youngest, Justin Gill, 20, had fetal alcohol syndrome since birth. Todd, who had become a financial planner after leaving his McDonald’s job, felt a strong urge to do something for the Gill family.
What started as a Facebook post and a call for help evolved into an online fundraiser, raising a whopping $75,000 over time—a genuine moment of surprise, joy, and relief for both Todd and Wendall.
As more donations poured in, Todd helped Wendall pay off his two cars, a van, and home, and buy a nice headstone for Della. “I AM SO HAPPY TO REPORT THAT ONE MAN HAS STEPPED FORWARD TO PAY FOR THIS. We have a headstone marker picked out,” said Todd.
The GoFundMe account received almost 2,000 donations and reached $115,520 before closing. In a video posted on the fundraising page, Todd expressed that he wished to see Wendall sit in McDonald’s and enjoy his coffee all day rather than working and cleaning up.
The Appreciation Party
To make his dear friend feel special and valued for all the hard work he had put in through the years, Todd decided to do something else. He organized an “Appreciation Party” on October 20, 2018, at a church near the Lexington McDonald’s branch.
Given his excruciating pain and heart-stopping trauma, Wendall could surely use a few hugs and words of encouragement from friends, family, and strangers. The event was a great success that touched Wendall’s heart and made him feel special and loved.
At the same time, Todd thanked everyone who showed up and uplifted his friend’s low spirits. “I’d lost a little faith in humanity until this came along,” he added.
Please show some love to this older man and his thoughtful friend in the comments section on Facebook.