Photo by Dermot Connolly
Kathy Lovitt looks up from cutting the cake she brought for the annual Christmas party she organized last Thursday at McDonald's in Palos Hills.
Dozens of people enjoyed the Christmas celebration thrown by Kathy Lovitt of Palos Heights last Thursday morning at McDonald's, 11050 Southwest Highway, in Palos Hills.
Since getting to know many of the veterans, seniors and other regular morning customers at the restaurant about three years ago, Lovitt began a tradition of bringing cake and other goodies to share with her friends around various holidays, including Veterans Day, Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day. The holiday celebrations include homemade cookies and a cake.
"She really puts a lot of work into it," said Rich Olund, 92, a World War II veteran from Palos Park, who is among the original group of veterans whom Lovitt befriended. He served in France, Holland and Germany in General George Patton's Third Army, and was among five World War II veterans who enjoyed sharing stories over breakfast.
This year, Olund’s close friends Tony Vallos and Elmer Korhorn died.
"I miss seeing them all here,” said Olund.
While he now shares his stories with the many veterans of Korea and Vietnam who also come to the restaurant, Olund said the only WWII veteran left in the group is Raymond Munoz, 91, who lives in Chicago's Gage Park neighborhood and can't get out as often as he used to. Just last year, he received the French Legion of Honor Medal for his wartime service.
Lovitt said she feels close to all the veterans and their families who come to the restaurant because her father served in World War II. For the party last Thursday, she brought two sheet cakes to ensure there would be enough for everyone.
"A lot of homeless people come in here, and I invited them, too," she said. She also had trays of cookies, brownies and marshmallows that she and her daughter, Sara, made. In addition to coffee, the party-goers also enjoyed little strawberry shakes complete with straws that looked like peppermint sticks.
When she wasn't passing out the treats, Lovitt was gathering her friends for photos that she collects in a scrapbook of all the parties.
"It's not that much work. I enjoy doing it. This is what the holidays are about," she said.