EL PASO, Texas (CBS4) — At 80 years old, Eddie Johnson goes to Whataburger for breakfast almost every morning. He said he’s a creature of habit, visiting the same restaurant, ordering the same meal and sitting in the same booth each day.
“It's not like coming to a restaurant, it's just like coming to have breakfast with some friends, which is the case,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he comes to Whataburger because he’s a terrible cook. But he didn’t have to start cooking for himself until recently. Johnson’s wife Lola died last April.
“She was just my soulmate. We were just two peas from the same pod. We did everything together. She was always there. I went to Europe with the Army, she was there,” Johnson said. “There was no way that we could love each other more than we did.”
Now, he comes to Whataburger as much for the companionship as he does for the food.
“I've always had people around, and since my wife died, you know, I get kind of lonesome, so it's another reason for coming here,” Johnson said.
On Monday, in honor of his 80th birthday, the Whataburger staff threw Johnson a surprise party, complete with a cake and Mylar balloons.
“I walked up to the counter to pay and I said, ‘Somebody's having a birthday today,’ and they said, ‘Yeah, you,’ and I said, ‘Oh,’” Johnson said. “When they came around and started singing happy birthday, the whole crew, and everybody started taking pictures and I said, ‘Hey, I’m 80 years old, I'm not used to this.’”
Johnson’s granddaughter, Emma Carr, posted a picture of the party on her Twitter account and overnight, Johnson became an internet sensation. Tens of thousands of people liked her tweet and wrote their well wishes to Johnson.
“When I wake up from the dream, I'll let you know. I could never imagine that anything like this was ever going to happen to me,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s granddaughter also didn’t expect the outpouring of support for her grandfather.
“I just got the link from an online blog from Ireland that's talking about it,” Carr said. “Definitely did not expect it to go viral but it did it, so here we are.”
She said her family members are grateful to Whataburger for taking such good care of her grandfather while they are at school and work.
“It's really nice that he has another family to take them in and to take care of him when we are unavailable,” Carr said.
Carr said she thinks the reason the tweet did so well is because people still want to see the good in one another.
“This whole story just demonstrates what kindness and love are all about,” she said.
However, she did have to explain to her grandfather how Twitter works. Johnson only has a Facebook account and leans on his grandkids to help him navigate through the tech world.
Carr said there were some negative comments as well; people criticized and questioned Johnson’s health. But Johnson said he walks regularly and is on the Weight Watchers program. He’s even lost more than 20 pounds in recent months.
As for Whataburger, area manager Eduardo Gonzalez said he just wants Johnson to know he’s always welcome.
“We pride ourselves on building relationships with our customers and giving back to our community,” Gonzalez said. “I think everyone needs to know that there is someone there who cares.”