Wendall Gill is 85 years old, and to say that he has a lot on his plate would be putting it mildly.
To make ends meet, Gill still works four days a week at a Lexington McDonald’s, a job he’s had for about 40 years.
He’s caring for two adult grandsons who he and his wife adopted and raised. Both have special needs.
And in August, his wife of 68 years, Della Gill, died, leaving him to do it all alone.
“I’ve got my hands full trying to work and take care of them, too,” Gill said. “If she had a choice, she would still be with us.”
In August, Della Gill suffered a catastrophic medical event at the Richmond Road restaurant where Gill works.
As they often did, the family had stopped at the restaurant to have a meal after a doctor’s appointment. Gill said his wife went to the restroom and never came out. An ambulance was called, and Della Gill was taken to a hospital, where she died a few weeks later, on Aug. 26.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it,” he said. “...I’m going to miss her the rest of my life.”
Michael Todd Oldfield said he knew as soon as he saw Gill at the restaurant afterward that something was wrong.
“He looked like he was empty,” Oldfield wrote in a Facebook post.
Oldfield has known Gill since he was a teenager in 1978 working at his first job at the Richmond Road McDonald’s. Now an insurance agent, Oldfield has continued to stop at the restaurant over the years, and when he does, he always looks for Gill.
He described Gill as “one of the most gentle souls I have ever known.”
“He goes about his work, taking care of the people,” Oldfield wrote. “The coffee is poured; trash is removed. Wendall keeps this store as clean as any store around.”
When he learned what had happened to Della Gill, Oldfield was moved to try to do something to make life just a little better for his former coworker.
For starters, he set up a GoFundMe page under the heading, “It’s Time to Serve Wendall.”
“All of Lexington knows this guy,” Oldfield said. “Forty years over there. He has smiled at a lot of people.”
Oldfield said he’d like to be able to help Gill pay off one of his two vehicles.
Gill said he thinks the other one, a newer Jeep that Della drove, will have to go back to the bank.
He said he’s still working because “I need the money.”
Besides the car payments, he said he has a mortgage and utility bills to pay.
The grandsons the Gills adopted are 20 and 33 years old. Gill said they go to adult daycare two days a week. A teacher at the program picks them up from Gill at McDonald’s and takes them, then brings them back to him when the day is over.
Now that Della is gone, Gill must take off work to get them to and from doctor appointments.
He said losing her has been particularly hard on his older grandson, who had helped his grandmother with tasks like getting to the car or making a cup of coffee.
“He’ll kind of cry a little every now and then and say, ‘I miss Granny,’” Gill said. “I say, ‘It’s ok to miss her, because you loved her.’”