For 32 years, the Pinewood Restaurant, in Henrico County, Virginia, has been a favorite of the community. Since the beginning it was owned and operated by a husband-and-wife team: Tody Butner and his wife Betty, who worked the kitchen.
It was the loving touches by the owners that made the place special to the locals, especially members of the local fire and police departments.
“[Betty] would hug you and kiss you on the cheek before you left, and she doesn’t even know you,” Officer Billy Grimmer of the Henrico Police Department told WTVR.
But things would never be the same at the restaurant—Betty died earlier this month.
Betty’s death devastated the regular customers.
“It was like losing your own mother,” Officer Grimmer recalled. “It was very hard.”
But no one was hit harder than her husband, Tody. Suddenly faced with the costs of cremating his wife and continuing to run the restaurant on his own, he closed the Pinewood shortly after her death, and no one knew if it would ever reopen.
But the regulars couldn’t stand to lose their favorite restaurant—and they certainly couldn’t stand to see Tody lose his beloved wife and restaurant all at once.
So, like something out of It’s a Wonderful Life, they all got together…
…and reopened the restaurant for one night for a very special event.
With everyone gathered at the Pinewood, Officer Grimmer made a special announcement.
“On behalf of everybody we don’t want you to close down, we want the restaurant back open,” he told Tody.
And then he handed him a very special gift from his customers:
$6,000 to keep the restaurant going!
Everyone chipped in what they could to keep the Pinewood from shutting down. It’s set to reopen January 2, and they’re even keeping things in the family: Tody & Betty’s daughter will take her late mother’s place in the kitchen.
Tody was thrilled and overwhelmed by the unexpected act of generosity.
“I feel wonderful about it,” Tody said, according to WTVR. “It’s nice to have good friends and the whole family and all the workers the whole nine yards.”
“Y’all are the best,” he told the crowd.
Not only would it be enough to keep the restaurant from closing, it would also cover the cost of Betty’s cremation, taking a load off the family. Her urn will be kept by her photo on the restaurant’s counter.
While Betty is gone, everyone could still feel her presence in the restaurant that night.
“You can feel her in the room now,” Tody’s friend Mike Elliott told WTVR. “I guess in the back of my head I can hear her saying something.”
She may be gone, but the loyal customers she and her husband have attracted over the years will make sure their doors will stay open for years to come.