I have the privilege of meeting many interesting people through my job at Donatos Pizza. We are blessed with great customers who have supported us for over 55 years now and each have their own story to tell. And as I am continually reminded, many times THEY make a bigger impact on us than they even realize.
Back in June, I first learned about a wonderful lady named Clem Torma, who visits our East Broad Street store almost every other Tuesday to get her favorite food, an individual thin crust sausage pizza. As fate would have it, that day when Clem came in to get her pizza Donatos founder Jim Grote met her and the two of them took the picture below.
Upon hearing of this chance meeting, I immediately reached out to her family to find out more about her story. What I learned among many other things is that Clem, who was 102 at the time, had come to America from Italy in a boat at the age of five and landed on Ellis Island. She worked during World War II as a riveter at Westinghouse in Mansfield. She has been a widow for nearly half her life and she never had any children. But boy, has she lived life! She loved to travel and she was very active in the lives of all her other family members and has taken care of them over the years when they needed it. We were able to introduce the rest of Central Ohio to Clem and share her story on National Centenarians Day (people who are 100 or older) when WBNS 10TV’s Karina Nova interviewed her in our restaurant that she so frequently visits.
As we parted ways on the day of that interview in September, we promised Clem that we would throw her a pizza party for her 103rd birthday – December 26. She gladly accepted and I put the date on my calendar as soon as I got back to my desk.
What Clem and her family didn’t realize at the time was that a week before I met her for the first time I had lost my last remaining grandparent. Grandma Mahaffey and I (pictured celebrating Christmas in 2017) were incredibly close since I was her oldest grandchild and we both loved a lot of the same types of things – sports, good writers and great human interest stories. Grandma lived to be 96 and had an incredibly full life with so many great memories. She and Clem would have been great friends had they ever met. Grandma was also the subject of one of my favorite blog stories that showed me first-hand the power of social media and the amazing kindness of others.
As Christmas approached this year, I began to realize that this would be the first time in my life that I would not get to celebrate Christmas with Grandma. I was extremely blessed to get 46 Christmases with her and I may have watched White Christmas that many times with her. She loved the holiday season, the music, the lights and most of all the family and friends that she got to spend time with. This was probably the first time that I truly understood to some degree the feeling of sadness so many deal with around the holidays.
As Christmas came and went, I was eagerly anticipating spending part of Clem’s big day with her. In talking with her niece, Jan, I knew that there had been some challenging days for Clem since I had seen her last, but the family was really excited to have this celebration. We showed up with pizza to feed all the residents at the assisted living facility where she lives and boy did Clem’s face light up! (click for video) She greeted everyone as they entered the dining room and proudly told them that it was her birthday. She even told me to look around at how many people where there and that we should be able to sell them a lot of pizza. Good ol’ Clem! 🙂
Karina Nova had also planned to attend the party, but unfortunately needed to anchor the noon news broadcast and could not attend. So, she did the next best thing and sent Clem this video and then also wished her happy birthday during the broadcast. Once again, Clem made an impact. All the residents sang happy birthday to Clem and then enjoyed pizza and cake. It was great to see the smile not only on Clem’s face, but the smiles on the faces of the other residents and also on the faces of Clem’s family members.
At Donatos, our promise is to serve the best pizza and make YOUR day a little better. We strive for this every day with every customer. Sometimes we come up a little short and when we do we try our very best to make it right. I know that on this day we definitely lived up to our promise. But you know what is great about having a promise like this? It actually makes OUR day better too by living it out! So thank you, Clem, for coming into my life in 2018 just when I needed you and allowing me to play just a small part in one chapter of your great story. Thanks to your love of Donatos Pizza you made MY day a whole lot better! Happy birthday!