HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- At Pop's Dogs & Ma's Burgers in Lakeside, hearty meals keep patrons coming back.
“Yes. We’ve got a lot of long-time customers,” owner Melody Walden said.
Not much changes inside the Henrico diner on Brook Road except the daily special.
But recently customers have noticed a familiar face has vanished.
“We’re not missing our teammate. We’re missing our team captain. He drives this ship,” Melody said.
The owner is taking a leave of absence.
Richard Walden lives and loves to serve others.
“I’ve always loved my little hot dog place since I was a kid so,” Richard said. “I don’t know I guess it is who I am. I’ve always been that type of person.”
Richard has been in the restaurant and catering industry for decades.
“You have to serve them right because if they don’t they won’t come back in that door,” he said.
During COVID, business dried up as did his nest egg. Richard nearly closed for good.
“I had $56 in my savings account,” he said. “We worked hard to keep that place open during the pandemic. I was just about broke and ready to pull the signs off.”
Yet through it, all Richard still went ahead and donated one of his kidneys to a complete stranger in March 2020.
“I’m grateful somebody got life,” Richard said. “I was healthy to do it. Why not do it if you’re healthy.”
Two years later, Richard has fully recovered and so has his restaurant.
Weathering the worst of COVID after CBS 6 viewers saw an “I Have a Story” about the impending closure and responded by flooding his restaurant with new business.
But Richard is stepping away from the grill again for good reason.
On January 28, Richard returned to the operating room one more time.
“I had a friend in middle school and he died of liver cancer,” Richard said. “Two weeks of crappy health for me and a lifetime for someone else to walk away with life. Life is too precious you know that.”
Richard would give most of another vital organ to a stranger.
“Most people would say you’re crazy but I donated 65% of my liver. To a lady who I do not know,” Richard said.
For this donor a small sacrifice yet again.
“Here I am. I gave my liver up. I must have been a good candidate,” Richard said.
Richard hopes he inspires others.
“With me, I’m healthy and wealthy. Maybe not wealthy money wise, but I have friends, life, family. I just feel that if you can donate. Donate,” he said.
Melody Walden said her husband’s generosity knows no bounds.
“Yes, I love him more. I can’t love him any more. And that is just all I can say,” she said. “I’m so happy I am not a jealous woman because there are two strange women in the United States walking around with a piece of my husband in them.”
Richard Walden is a restaurant owner with a big heart who just can’t stop donating to a worthy cause.
“I am as good as gold,” Richard said. “My wife says there are no parts to give away but there is always bone marrow. I haven’t checked into that. So I’m not saying that I would. And not saying that I wouldn’t.”
Richard Walden will be returning to his favorite place Pop’s Dogs and Ma’s Burgers very soon.
He plans on meeting the woman who received his liver in the next couple of weeks.
If you would like to visit Pop’s Dogs and Ma’s Burgers they are located at 7301 Brook Rd, Richmond, VA 23227.
You can also watch Greg McQuade's "Heroes Among Us" reports Thursdays on CBS 6 News at 6 p.m.
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