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Plant City Courier

Powerball winner behind random act of kindness in Plant City?

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Published:   |   Updated: June 14, 2013 at 06:41 AM
PLANT CITY -

The generosity of a customer at one of the city's oldest restaurants has led to a big mystery.

Just who was she?

An older woman who visited BuddyFreddys on Sunday with another older woman and younger man paid the bill for every customer in the restaurant – all 180 of them.

The random act of kindness had customers wondering if it could have been the record Powerball jackpot winner Gloria C. MacKenzie, of Zephyrhills, which is less than 20 miles away.

But George Weaver, the BuddyFreddys manager on duty at the time, doesn't think it was the 84-year-old who won the $590 million jackpot.

“It didn't look at all like her, based on what I've seen on TV,” Weaver said. “To my knowledge it was not the Powerball winner.”

Customers drive great distances to eat at BuddyFreddys, a buffet restaurant known for its Southern cuisine that traces its roots back nearly 60 years. The restaurant with porches and rocking chairs off Thonotosassa Road and Interstate 4 gets plenty of customers from nearby Zephyrhills, Weaver said.

The woman paid $1,000 in cash and the younger man put another $950 on a credit card. He later called the restaurant and asked that another $300 be added to the credit card for a $50 tip for each of the six servers on duty.

Weaver said the name on the credit card was not Scott MacKenzie, the winner's son. He would not disclose the name on the card to protect the privacy of the customer.

Weaver said he's never seen any random act of kindness like it in his 10 years in the restaurant business. Stephanie Reaves, who has been a restaurant manager for 35 years, including more than 20 years at BuddyFreddys, said she's never heard of such generosity, either.

“It's an absolute miracle,” Reaves said.

MacKenzie, the winner of the largest undivided lottery jackpot in history, has not spoken to reporters. But Weaver said he didn't get the impression that the generous customer he encountered was a newfound multi-millionaire who was spreading the wealth. She seemed to him to be someone who was used to having money and spending it, he said.

“The only real explanation was that they liked the service and they liked the atmosphere and wanted to pay for everyone's meal,” he said.

But Weaver said customers who were there that day, including some who shook the woman's hand, thought it was MacKenzie.

“Everybody's got their own story of who it was,” he said.

Mike Sparkman, a city commissioner and lifelong resident, said he hadn't heard about the generous stranger but he had a question of his own.

“Does anyone know when she's coming back?” he quipped.


Twitter: @dnicholsonTrib

dnicholson@tampatrib.com

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