Meet Laurie Radake, the City Diner Waitress Who Got a $500 Tip

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       Seth Collins surprised Laurie Radake at City Diner. | Aaron's Last Wish
  •        Seth Collins surprised Laurie Radake at City Diner. | Aaron's Last Wish

Laurie Radake wasn't fazed when three customers seated themselves in her section in the back of City Diner (3139 South Grand Boulevard; 314-772-6100). She didn't even think it was weird that they had video cameras. They ordered a BLT and a chicken sandwich -- nothing out of the ordinary -- and paid with a credit card. When Radake brought the receipt, though, Seth Collins was standing up with a book in his hand.

"I thought maybe he was somebody from a church or something," Radake tells Gut Check, "but when he told me that his brother had died and this was his last wish, I was just in awe. I couldn't believe it."

Seth Collins has been traveling across the country for more than a year leaving $500 tips to servers in each state to honor his late brother, Aaron, who died of an alleged suicide last July. He asked his brother to leave an awesome tip in his will. "He said, 'I'm not talking about 25 percent, I mean $500 for a pizza,'" Collins told NPR. The family set up a donation page and ended up raising over $60,000. He also put together a book about Aaron's life that he gives with the tip.

Collins stopped in St. Louis last week before heading to Chicago; he has already been to Los Angeles, Seattle, Nashville, Cleveland and several towns in his home state of Kentucky. Radake's coworkers, including her daughter, were just as surprised as she was. "They just couldn't believe it. My daughter said, 'Mom, you're not taking any more tables tonight!'" Radake says.

Continue to find out how Radake spent the money.

She used most of the $500 to pay her electric bill and buy groceries but had some left over to buy a little swimming pool for her granddaughter. City Diner is also planning on donating some of its sales one day next week to Aaron's Last Wish, the family's nonprofit, though it is not quite sure exactly when.

"I already read the whole book. [Aaron] just seemed to be a really good guy. He had a friend that was a waitress and watched her struggle. That's a really good thing that they're doing, and it's kind of having a domino effect," Radake says. "Yesterday and the day before, one of my coworkers said he's been getting really good tips since that happened. It's had an effect on people."

Gut Check is always hungry for food and restaurant-related tips and feedback. Email the author at nancy.stiles@riverfronttimes.com or follow her on Twitter.

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