Restaurateur pens inspirational book - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Restaurateur pens inspirational book

December 23rd, 2021 SanTan Sun News
Restaurateur pens inspirational book
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By Geri Koeppel, Contributor

Randy Walters has been many things in his 68 years: hospital corpsman, painter, restaurateur and minister among them. Now, he’s added another line to his resume: Author.

He drew upon a decade of running restaurants in Chandler to write a book titled “Hamburgers, Hot Dogs & Hugs: Real stories of faith, kindness, caring, hope, and humor served up at a small diner with a plate of comfort food and a side of unconditional love,” published by Me Youniversity Publishing.

During his years helming Pittsburgh Willy’s in the Merchant Square antiques mall from 2008-13 and then Wimpy’s Paradise in downtown Chandler from 2013-18, Walters said many people told him he should write a book.

“I hope people will read these stories and understand any of us can make a difference in somebody’s life,” he said. He calls love and kindness a “superpower” that everyone has and can use.

The chapters detail interactions Walters had with customers and lessons he’s learned in life. The stories burst with optimism and hope, something that any of his 1,600 or so Facebook friends or his former customers won’t be surprised to hear.

Kim Schulz of Chandler recalls going frequently to Wimpy’s Paradise both for the award-winning burgers and dogs and his famous free hugs.

“It’s one of those really good hugs,” she said, “the kind that when you’re having a bad day and you want a hug, you know exactly where to get it.”

Schulz continued, “He had this chalkboard outside the restaurant and would write kind and inspiring things. Even if you didn’t stop in the restaurant, you’d still be inspired to do better in the world.”

She added, “We need more people like that in the world to spread the love and make everybody feel wanted and valued.”

Walters shares tales of welcoming customers experiencing homelessness and how he learned to provide not just food, but dignity. He writes about making Muslim friends through his restaurant and then hosting a “Muffins with Muslims” chat for people who wanted to learn more about a religion often vilified in the media.

Speaking of media, Walters relates in his book how he learned early on how to promote his business with no advertising or marketing budget. He capitalized on Super Bowl XLIII, when his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers played the Arizona Cardinals. He sold hot dogs for $1.22 when the temperature hit 122, reeling in multiple local news stations for coverage.

“I got people lined up out my front door that had seen my segments live, and that’s when it hit me: Media is powerful,” he said.

When Walters was transitioning from Merchant Square to downtown Chandler, his original plan was to open two distinct restaurants: Pittsburgh Willy’s for hot dogs and Wimpy’s Paradise for hamburgers, named after a diner his father ran before Walters was born.

However, he suffered a heart attack and decided one location would be enough. He later had another heart attack, and in November 2020, lost his son-on-law suddenly to diabetes. Just after that, his wife, Cyndee, was diagnosed with cancer.

And in January 2021, Walters was hospitalized for 20 days with COVID-19 and almost didn’t make it, which he writes about.

He chronicled his battle in real time via Facebook posts and videos, saying, “I wanted to share it with everyone so they knew what really happened during that process.”

At one point, he admitted, “The pain was so bad that I said to God, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’”

But then he recalled his granddaughter Kara’s battle with Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)—a condition that affects blood flow—and how she nearly died three times and made it. About a year before his hospital stay, she was on a ventilator for about a week.

“The day she came off the ventilator, I reached over and she couldn’t talk well, and I kissed her forehead, and I said, ‘Baby, it’s the third time now, you were at death’s door and fought and came back.’ And she looked up at me and smiled and said, ‘Papa, I’m hard to kill.’”

That’s when he realized he couldn’t give up.

When asked how he keeps a positive attitude in the face of so many heartbreaks and setbacks, Walters recounted the story of a marine he knew who had lost both legs, most of both arms and his vision to a landmine explosion in Vietnam.

Walters recalled saying, “It was an honor and privilege to know you, but can I ask you something? You have every reason to be angry and bitter, but every day you laugh and joke and lift our spirits. How do you do it?” The marine told him to come in close and he put his lips to Walter’s ears and said, “I came home.”

Walters teared up as he stated, “Those three words changed my life. I never felt sorry for myself ever again the rest of my life because there are always people who are worse off.”

Walters, however, still battles with health issues.

“I lost my spleen to COVID and 30 percent of my right lung to COVID pneumonia. And I can’t walk more than about 60 steps without having to rest. But I keep thinking back to that marine. There are people who can’t walk 60 steps. I can walk 60 steps, so I’ll take it.”

So when you see someone park in an ADA spot and walk into a grocery store, or someone is rude to you at work or makes an unprovoked attack on social media, Walters urges people to pull out their superpowers.

“Everybody’s going through something,” he said. “Be kind. You don’t know.”

“Hamburgers, Hot Dogs & Hugs” will be available Dec. 6 on Amazon as a paperback and on Kindle. Walters can be reached for speaking engagements at damillhunk22@yahoo.com.   

 

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