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Closed Doors, Opened Hearts: Local diner welcomes veteran to Thanksgiving feast

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PEORIA (HOI) -- The 50's Diner in Peoria's Metro Centre always wants everyone who walks through their doors to feel like family. They remained true to that sentiment this Thanksgiving.

The owners of the local stop held a small gathering to safely distance and celebrate Thanksgiving. Justice Parker realized something when they finished dinner.

"We saw a car pulled up and we felt really bad because we were closed but we were parked outside so it looked like we were open," said Parker, whose mother owns The 50's Diner.

93-year-old Ed Sims wanted to find a place to eat on Thanksgiving Day and noticed the cars parked near the restaurant.

Instead of closing the doors, Parker and her family opened their hearts.

"No one in the room said 'tell him we're closed' or ' turn him away'. We were all just like 'let him come in. We'll feed him," said Parker.

Then, they gave him a full plate with all the holiday fixings. Sims couldn't finish it all so they happily gave him a hefty to-go bag for the road.

When they sat him down, Parker was moved by what she saw next and turned to social media.

"He sat down and we saw him praying. In my heart, I just couldn't not share the story."

Facebook: Justice Parker

In return, Sims went on to share his story being a World War II veteran, a foster father of 10, and a loving widower.

"I'm a family man. I really like my family. It was something that I could never explain how it felt to me," said Sims. "Not being able to be with my real family so I mean, I can have families anywhere I go."

Paired with the pandemic, his usual Thanksgiving has changed over time after losing three sons and his second wife of 30 years. He was overwhelmed by Parker and her family's gracious gesture.

"I've always been helpful to other people but that's one lesson that I've had to learn over the last few year. I've got to quit depending on myself and when someone offers to do something for you let them help you," said Sims.

Two years ago, Parker also experienced losing her great grandfather. She partly sees Ed's appearance this year as a sign from her lost loved one.

"Their stories are similar and they even talk the same a little bit. It was just supposed to be Ed," said Parker.

For both sides, it was a Thanksgiving they'll always cherish.

Pablo Iglesias

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