Community comes together to help a senior who lost his wife and supports two special needs grandkids he and his wife adopted.

Wendall Gill had been wiping tables, stocking supplies and cleaning the bathrooms at the same Lexington, Kentucky, McDonald’s for 43 years.

One August day, his life changed when his wife, Della, of 68 years stopped by the restaurant for a meal and died in the bathroom due to an aneurysm.

Instead of taking time off work to grieve, Gill continued showing up to work every day. He had two special people to take care of: the special needs grandkids he and Della adopted as babies when their own parents couldn’t care for them.

How a Community Stepped Up to Help a Grieving Senior

elderly man with a man wearing a neon pink shirt
Wendall Gill and Todd Oldfield // Photo by Frank Goad

Customers heard about his hardship after a friend and former co-worker, Todd Oldfield, came in for breakfast and asked Gill how he was doing.

“He began telling me this story and he couldn’t go 30 seconds without his eyes welling up,” Oldfield told the Washington Post.

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Oldfield decided he needed to do something to help his old friend. He set up a GoFundMe with the headline “Wendall Needs Us To Serve Him Now!” hoping to raise enough money so Gill could spend more time with his grandsons. The older one, John Columbia, 33, has autism, and the younger one, Justin Gill, 20, has physical and mental effects from fetal alcohol syndrome.

Gill was grateful for the help, saying that he missed his wife and it was difficult to show up to work and take care of the boys while grieving.

“They say you get over things, but when I think of her, I start crying,” Gill said. “I don’t think I’ll ever get over that.”

On the GoFundMe page, Oldfield wrote: “He is 85. He really needs to retire. Tomorrow is promised for none of us. He really needs to spend time with his boys and just heal . . . and not worry about where they will get their next meal from.”

How a Community Restored Faith in Humanity

elderly man cleaning a table

Hundreds of customers and community members donated.

On the GoFundMe page, Oldfield wrote that Gill is in debt. Gill and his wife had bought a new Jeep Cherokee for her to take their grandchildren to doctor’s appointments and other activities. They also owed money on a Chrysler van.

The payments on the Jeep and van were $1,200 a month, more than double Wendall Gill’s salary. He supplemented his income with social security and disability payments for the boys, but he struggled without his wife’s social security check.

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Some of Gill’s children paid for their mother’s casket and funeral.

Someone, touched by Gill’s story, offered to buy a headstone for Della Gill. And another family offered to sponsor Christmas for Gill and his boys.

The GoFundMe raised $115,520 and Gill was able to pay off the Jeep, the van and his house.

He retired and was able to spend time with his boys, sharing many meals with them at McDonald’s.

Oldfield said it’s heartwarming how generous people have been.

“As we get older, the world taints us a bit. I’d lost a little faith in humanity until this came along,” he said. “I can’t believe the good nature of people. It’s been kind of amazing.”