Restaurant owner Nick Petrow and customer Ana Ochoa have become such good friends that Ochoa refers to him as her son.

“It’s wild because it threw people off,” Petrow said. “She introduced me to my mom as her son. My mom looked at her like ‘What? This is my son.’ It was pretty funny.”

Ochoa, who is originally from Cuba, has been eating at Petrow’s Restaurant for more than 10 years. Petrow said she has a unique palate for food and seasonings, so she’ll sometimes make suggestions.

“I found out she knew her stuff. She told me I needed a Cuban sandwich on the menu,” he said. “She made me make it about three or four times until it was perfect.”

Ochoa, 99, lives at Crowne Pointe assisted living. She comes to Petrow’s with her two best friends, Rosemary Whittaker and Charlene Lawless. Lawless said Petrow is really good to the three of them.

“He lets her write a check (for her meal),” she said, “(and) when she was in the hospital recently we picked up food for her and he wouldn’t let us pay.”

Petrow downplays his generosity: “That’s what friends do.”

The three women have exchanged Christmas gifts in past years, but Ochoa doesn’t really want presents anymore, Lawless said. So this year, they decided to surprise her by donating $50 to The World Herald’s Goodfellows charity in her name. The gift is to honor Petrow.

Whittaker said she decided on Goodfellows after reading stories in The World-Herald “about the good it does for everyone.”

Every dollar goes to help someone else, she said, and that’s impressive. The charity helps people with one-time emergency aid, provides holiday meals and helps parents provide socks and underwear when kids go back to school.

She figured Ochoa would like this gift because she gives to other charities, including the Shriners Hospital and St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

And, of course, it’s a tribute to her “son.” They didn’t tell her about the donation.

“Since Nick is so good to us, Rosemary thought Ana would appreciate it,” Lawless said. “We’ll tell her after it’s in the paper if she doesn’t see it.”

Petrow will be surprised too. He did an interview for this story but we were vague about the subject.

“I think she’s just an amazing person,” he said. “She’s one of the nicest ladies I know.”

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Betsie covers a little bit of everything for The World-Herald's Living section, including theater, religion and anything else that might need attention. Phone: 402-444-1267.

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