Denise (O'Connell) Godwin, Manager of Applebee's Fridley
- Published on Sunday, 11 September 2011 22:27
- Written by Stanton O. Berg
This is the Story of a Special Lady with a Big Heart
Below is a copy of an email that I sent on 10 September 2011 to my Children, Grandchildren and to all of my friends and relatives on my email address book. I wanted to tell them about Denise, this very special manager working at Applebee's.
"This note is not only going to my Children and Grandchildren but to everyone on my email address list…I just think that the subject of this email, Denise is a very rare and special person working for an unusual organization and I would like everyone to know about it. Certainly Denise deserves mention in your daily prayers for those that would or are willing do so. Applebee's because of Denise, has been a special friend to all of the many victims of Alzheimer's and their caregivers by helping to spread an awareness of this terrible disease! It is my good fortune to be able to call her a friend and Applebee's good fortune to have her as a member of their team!
"Denise is a Christian lady with a Christian heart who attends church on Sunday’s. Denise is also a super friendly lady as well as a kind and very hard working lady who holds down two jobs. She is one of the Managers at the Fridley Applebee’s on Central Avenue near 694. Denise is an eleven (11) year associate of Applebee's. She also has a 2nd job as a waitress in one of the Mexican chain of restaurants. She is a lady with a very big heart. Denise was married just a year ago at a church service in Savage. In addition to being a wife and very busy with two jobs, she is still able to find time to assist others. I feel that I am very fortunate that God placed her in my life - she has been a huge blessing to me!
My first meeting with Denise was on an evening that she was the manager at the Fridley Applebee’s and it was not a happy occasion…in fact it was an occasion that I was very angry at Applebee’s. It was an evening early in January 2010. I had received a gift card for Applebee’s from one of my grandchildren on Christmas Eve 2009. When I first used the card in January of 2010, it was at the Fridley Applebee’s on Central and 694. When I came to pay for the meal with the card, I was told that the card amount was for $10 less then the amount written on the card envelope. I assumed that it was an Applebee’s error and I was very angry about the entire matter. Denise discussed the matter with me and handled it in such a diplomatic way that I lost all my anger with Applebee’s and shortly thereafter we became good friends.
Mom/Grandma June always liked the Applebee’s restaurants from the day we first had a meal at one in North Carolina in the early 1980’s. We were out visiting Sue and Daniel and had an evening meal there. Mom/Grandma June liked the atmosphere and the food. Mom/Grandma June was pleased when the franchise came to Minnesota. I remember in the fall of 2004 when the sign came up on Central Ave. announcing the future home of an Applebee’s in Fridley…Mom/Grandma June was very pleased and was looking forward to their opening in early 2005. Unfortunately Alzheimer’s took command of Mom/Grandma June’s life and she was never able to see the opening. Mom/Grandma June also has a warm place in her heart for waitresses and staff of restaurants. It was a small restaurant in Barron, WI that Grandpa Tom first introduced me to Mom/Grandma June. She was a waitress at this little restaurant. I spent many of our date times awaiting the end of her work shift when we were first going together. I had more free time than did Grandma June, as I was home on leave from the Army at the times.
The Applebee’s chain is probably the most active and generous of the nation’s restaurants in recognizing veterans…Every Veterans Day, they have a special menu for veterans. Any veteran can come in all day long and order what ever they like on the menu and it is provided as a gift from Applebee’s. I know of no other business that does so on this scale…even the Legion and the VFW does not do anything like that…last Veteran’s Day I saw the local Legion post commander in the Fridley Applebee’s having his free meal.
Applebee’s provides an atmosphere of help for charitable causes. When requested, they (Denise) immediately agreed to allow me to have one of my “June’s Alzheimer’s Awareness Card” holder dispensers at their front desk near the entrance. These Alzheimer's awareness cards not only promote Alzheimer's awareness but also promote funding, research and proper Alzheimer's care practices.
June Memorial Booth
Denise surprised me a year ago when she honored Mom/Grandma June and I with my favorite booth being designated as the “June and Stan Berg” Booth. She arranged to have engraved brass plates attached to the back of each side seat of the booth with our names on them. Mom/Grandma June has her side seat back with her engraved brass plate and I have mine on the other side.
As you know, I send out cards for birthdays and anniversaries and other special events in behalf of Grandma June and I. I usually enclose a picture of Grandma June and me to help preserve Mom/Grandma June’s memory. I did this a short time ago for Denise on her birthday…The next time I came in Applebee’s, I found that the picture I sent to her was now framed and mounted in the back of the special “June and Stan” booth.
June's Alzheimer's Awareness Cards
Recently when I mentioned to Denise one of my concerns about the “June’s Alzheimer’s Awareness cards” and what would happen to this little awareness campaign when I passed away. I am 84 years old and have overstayed my life-time now. I have seven (7) of the card holder dispensers at 6 local restaurants and the “Eye Care Center” here in the Twin Cities. All of the business locations have a special meaning in Mom/Grandma June’s life. I told Denise that my children are busy making a living, plus living their own lives and that the card program would probably be a casualty of my passing. Denise immediately volunteered to keep the card program going and that she would personally visit the locations involved on a weekly basis in order to keep the dispensers filled (Including the Applebee’s one) as long as someone would keep a supply of cards available. Julie would handle the ordering and supply through Insty Prints where they keep the printing file on hand. Here is a lady with two jobs taking on another responsibility and acting like it is really nothing for her to do this!
Denise has been personally very kind and helpful to me. I have found that I need to be careful of any comments I make about any personal needs I have because Denise will immediately step in to try to solve them for me. I remarked one day that my front porch light had burned out and I would need to get it replaced. Denise insisted on promptly coming to my home and doing the replacement for me, saying that someone my age should not be up on a ladder. Denise promptly followed up by coming out on the next Sunday morning on her way to church to make the change for me. She acted like it was nothing for her to do so.
I recall the time a few months ago that I had a remedial surgery because of an error by the surgery team at Southdale Fairview in connection with the use of a Catheter (Kidney surgery) This same day surgery required I be at the hospital at 8 AM in the morning. I had mentioned to Denise that since this was on a work day, it would be inconvenient for my children to take me and that I would probably be taking a cab as this would be the easiest on everyone. Denise immediately offered to provide transportation for me on the appointed day and time as she would not be working that morning. Since this was more than out of her way and on the opposite end of the Twin Cities, I simply refused to accept this generous gift of time and expense on her part. I instead planned to take a cab on my own. As it turned out, the surgeon on hearing I was taking a cab arranged for the hospital to send their own cab to pick me up, apparently because the problem needing correction was not of my doing but was their error.
There are more examples of what this very special lady has done…but perhaps I have gone on far too long now but feel I needed the detail to properly tell this lady’s story!
Christmas Season 2010
I designed a special Christmas message/letter for all the staff of the Fridley Applebee's and I had it delivered to each of them. This message was accompanied by a gift of candy for all of them. Here is a link to the Christmas message 2010:
Note: Specially printed Christmas cards for the Applebee employees from June with her picture and greeting, was continued in the years 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Christmas Day 2011 and a Gift of Chocolates for a Nursing Home.
I had planned to present gifts in the form of boxes of “no sugar” chocolates to the residents of the Benedictine Nursing Home as gifts from June. My wife June Berg had been a resident at the Benedictine’s Alzheimer’s Villa, room 207, for over two and a half (2-1/2) years before she passed away on 23 October 2008. For many of the residents, Christmas is a lonely day. The gift would include a specially designed Christmas card from June with her picture on the card and a short history of her residence at the Benedictine’s Alzheimer’s Villa. My first priority was the Alzheimer’s Villa of the Nursing Home (19 packages) and then the balance of the nursing home with another 20 plus packages. I almost gave up the project when I started considering the logistics of the operation. I am 83 years of age and walk with the assistance of a cane. How could I realistically carry all that candy with cards and make the distribution around and about the large area of the nursing home? I mentioned to Denise that I was thinking of scrapping the idea. Denise immediately volunteered to help me by carrying my supplies of boxes of candy and cards…and she did! She was a huge help to me. She followed me around the nursing home on Christmas day as I was making the presentations and handed me a box of candy and a card when ever I needed one! She also visited with and had friendly conversations with the residents along the way! The operation worked flawlessly and I simply could not have done it without her!
Two years later, (2013) a misunderstanding of the privacy laws by the Benedictine threatened my continuation of this program...Strong supporting letters to the local administrator and to the Benedictine president in Duluth by Denise helped me in continuing this program...
PS: This program has been continued and this most recent Christmas time of 2014 resulted in over 60 gifts of chocolate candies and cards to the residents of the nursing home.
"Dining to Donate for Alzheimer's" - March 2012
Denise arranged an Alzheimer’s research fund raising event in the Memory of June with the funds raised to go to Mayo Clinic's Alzheimer's Research Center. This special event was scheduled for Tuesday March 27th 2012 at 4 PM to 9 PM. (Normal evening dinner period) This was one of the Applebee's "Dining to Donate" charitable fund raising programs. Denise did all the organizing and handled much of the publicity. Denise personally appeared at the Fridley Senior Dining Center where she gave a short talk to promote the event. Denise also provided "Dining to Donate" flyers to the Lion's Club members to pass out at their meeting. The event was held and the money raised was sent to the Mayo Clinic's Alzheimer's Research Center. This lady has a big heart and I am sure that June would have loved her! For the story of Applebee's "Dining to Donate" Programs, click on the below link:
Denise has Moved On!
Denise is no longer a part of the Applebee’s organization. Denise has moved on and is now a part of and working for Standard Heating and Air Conditioning. (I will never understand Applebee’s allowing Denise to move on to other employment.) Denise was one of the strongest factors involved with the Fridley Applebee's...but for Denise this is a great move for her with much improvement in her quality of life. Denise is expecting to give birth to a young son in the near future. (Denise now has a 2 year old son Rowan - Jan - 2015) Denise's job now is one with a standard work week of Monday through Friday and with standard daytime work hours…
As for Applebee’s it is their loss…Denise describes her time with Applebee’s as a “Great Twelve Year Run.” For me personally, it is a sad transition…”The special fun at Applebee’s is gone!”...So long friend, we miss you! (July 2012)
Denise’s new job at Standard Heating and Air Conditioning is that of a “Sales Representative”. As a Sales Representative, Denise sells heating and cooling systems to their customers. Denise can be contacted at Standard Heating and Air Conditioning by way of her email address:
Note: Since Denise has moved on from the Fridley Applebee's, it is no longer the same...the interior has been completely redone and refurbished...it no longer has the comfortable neighborhood feeling of the Applebee's of old...June and I have lost "June's special booth"...while Applebee's continues to be a good place for veterans on "Veteran's Day", even this atmosphere has suffered a hit...The veterans used to have a large framed pictorial display of the local veterans with signatures...this was removed. There was also a special pictorial display of a local "Congressional Medal of Honor" winner (how many of those are there?) and that has been totally removed...why was that done? I would think that Applebee's would consider it a Privilege to be able to display such a special honored veteran...but then we are living in a different time period and a period of diminished social values...my values and the values of other veterans are not their values...the mentioned displays have been replaced with some pictorials of Minnesota state college sports...nothing local...what a significant downgrade in all regards...yes, I still go there weekly every Saturday noon as a thank you for having the June Alzheimer's Awareness Card dispenser...I used to go there multiple times a week...
Denise continues being Denise...a Special Update January 2015
(This update is copy of another email to family and friends)
"Denise is one of those special people that when they become your friend, they stay with you through changing times and circumstances…ours was a most unlikely friendship…Denise is a pleasant, friendly and outgoing young lady that I met at Applebee’s when she was a manger there…and I am an old man that Denise has described as “stubborn and opinionated”… Of course I tell Denise it you are right, then stubbornness is a virtue and the only people we call opinionated are those who have a different opinion then ours…otherwise they are simply people with strong convictions..
I first met Denise when I was using a Christmas Gift card for Applebee’s…probably around the winter of 2009-2010…the card was issued by another Applebee’s and contained an error between the amount noted on the gift folder and the amount actually on the card itself…this first meeting was a strained one…Denise did her best to correct the situation (not of her making).on the amount…when I finally recognized this, a friendship was started…Denise has been one of my biggest supporters and a positive force in promoting June’s honor and memory as well as Alzheimer’s Awareness…
A story of some of the many things this young lady has done for June and I, is recorded on a page on June’s web site…it got to the point that I dared not mention any problem I was having of any kind or Denise would set out to correct it for me…even such things as offering to drive me to Branson, Missouri (1288 mile round trip of a few days at Branson) so I could attend a reunion of my Army Counter Intelligence Corp. buddies who would be meeting there…
Denise has moved on from Applebee’s to a job better suited to her new role as a mother of a new son…but she is still a part of my life and tends to appear suddenly when most needed…
My recent almost week long bout with the stomach flu is a good example…Denise sent me an email asking if she could help…I was over the immediate flu symptoms then but had lost my appetite and was just waiting it out…on Saturday morning Denise asked if she could drop by my home and bring me a “Protein” drink that would stay down and would help me…I told her no, I would be fine and would be stopping at Applebee’s later to ask them to prepare my usual Saturday lunch as a take out and that it would serve as both my lunch and later dinner…I still had an appetite problem…plus some hot tea which I thought would help me…Denise then asked if she could pick it up and deliver it for me…I again declined saying I had been house bound since late Tuesday afternoon and just needed to get out of the house…that I thought would be the end of the story…well Denise had other ideas…
When I got to Applebee’s the manager delivered a note and a gift card to me from Denise who had earlier stopped by and purchased a gift card for me for an amount that more then covered my purchase and also left a note for me that made me laugh out loud (I am not into this LOL stuff) and also lifted my spirits… Her note reads:
“Stan – You stubborn old man! I bought you lunch anyways!...Feel better, the world needs you to be opinionated as all heck!...(heart symbol) Your friend, Denise.”
Yes, Denise is the type of a friend that everyone should have…I am glad she is one of mine!"
Mandie Yates - Birmingham, United Kingdom - 18 January 2015): "What a sweetie...thank you for sharing...we do indeed all need a Denise now and again."
Susu Ibie - Benin City, Nigeria - (18 January 2015):"God bless you Denise. It is always refreshing to know that there are still some very special human beings you can count on. Thanks for all your help to Stanton."
Martina Kaut - Furtwangen, Germany - (18 January 2015): "Wow ... she is truly * an Angel* ... thank you for sharing this with us, Stan."
Billy Thomson - Edinburgh, Scotland - (18 January 2015): "Great stuff...dementia needs good friends like this lady bless her ."
Vicki Cadogan - Limerick, Ireland - (18 January 2015): "Sounds like a fantastic lady Stan, bet ye had some interesting debates."
Ursula Zarecki Sypniewski - Toms River, New Jersey - (18 January 2015):"Definitely a great friend! What a kind and generous woman."
Susan Kimball -Dover, Pennsylvania - (18 January 2015):"So sweet."
Catherine Jones-Hatcher - Richmond, Virginia -(18 January 2015): "We should all be so lucky to have such a friend!"
Lin Schmidt - Anoka, Minnesota - (18 January 2015): "What an awesome person she is!"
Lisa Dowis Blackmore - Swansea, Illinois - (18 January 2013):"May God continue to bless you and Denise! Love this story that shows there are still good people in this upside down world."
Mary Ayers - Madison, Alabama - (18 January 2015):"There still are kind thoughtful people out there. May she also be helped in her time of need...Glad you're feeling better, Stan."
John Stevens - Twin Falls, Idaho - (18 January 2015): "Wow. That warmed me all over. Renews my faith in the younger generation. Sweethearts like this don't grow on trees. God makes them."
Marla Wise Miller - Bremen, Indiana - (18 January 2015): "One of those 'earth bound' Angels, indeed."
Marsha McKneely Ault- Nacogdoches, Texas - (18 January 2015): "There is still good in this ole world. Thank you Denise for watching over our friend, Stan."
Patrice Kohn - McKinney, Texas - (18 January 2015):"What a delightful & true friend Denise must be. You are both blessed to have each other in your lives. So glad you're feeling better Stan. God bless you both!"
Donna Dischert Blake - Havertown, Pennsylvania - (18 January 2015): "An angel."
Denise Specht Quesnell - Merced, California - (18 January 2015): "What an awesome person you have in your life, I enjoyed reading your emails on June's page. Everyone should be so lucky."
Lynda Etlicher - Rice Lake, Wisconsin - (19 January 2015): "Yes I think Denise is a. Good friend The kind you should hang onto. We all need them."
Arlinda Lynch - New York, New York (19 January 2015): "I remember your story about Denise from a little while ago about her making the plaque above you and June's favorite booth at Applebees. It always sticks out in my mind. I love hearing stories about such good people. It doesn't take much to just be good and live a good life, but sometimes it does seem hard to find. Glad you have found someone so special!"
Cindy Ellis - Minneapolis, Minnesota - (19 January 2015): "The world needs more people like her."
Jauhn Etlicher - Green Bay, Wisconsin - (19 January 2015):"LOL-love it! What a special person Uncle Stan!
Kathy Paananen - South Porcupine, Ontario, Canada - (19 January 2015): "She's your guardian angel."
Ericca Wilkins - Bakersfield, California - (19 January 2015): "She sounds like a great friend. God bless her."
Jackie Irving - Liverpool, United Kingdom - (29 November 2015):"Its a lovely heart warming story Stan....you have some wonderful friends!...Your right ...Denise is like the friend we should all have...take care and God bless."
After an almost 12 year journey into the shadows of Alzheimer's, early one morning in late October 2008, an exhausted June felt God's gentle touch on her shoulder and heard the words: "Come Home June!" As June lay like a wounded soldier on a battlefield, it was God's Angels that ushered June into a Heavenly Kingdom to the sound of a chorus of Angels...and into June's new home, a "Mansion on the Hilltop", where there is no pain, nor illness nor tears...June's funeral notice as published in the Minneapolis Star in October 2008 can be seen on this website in the drop down menu under the "In Memoriam" label - just Click on: