Bob Stone fancies himself to be the “Ostrander Agitator,” but those that know him say he is a kind-hearted and generous man.
It is that generosity and spirit of giving that led Jane Grote Abell, owner and chairwoman of Donatos Pizza, to surprise Stone on Friday at the downtown Delaware location as he prepared to eat an early birthday lunch with his wife and a family friend.
“I appreciate what you do in the community in helping other people,” Grote Abell told Stone.
Stone, who turns 74 today, has been known to purchase cars for family friends in need, help with college tuition and rescue a homeowner in foreclosure.
“It just represented everything we are at Donatos,” said Grote Abell, who was informed of Stone’s generosity by a family friend who has benefited from his kindness. “It sounds like you guys are guardian angels for some people.”
Stone, an entrepreneur himself, is the owner of Environmental Protective Coatings LLC, and a huge fan of Abell Grote.
“He has been a Donatos fan ever since Jane Grote Abell was first seen in their commercials on TV,” said his wife of 46 years, Alice. “He thinks she is the best thing that ever came along with pizza.”
“Pulling off this surprise is one of the most wonderful things that could happen for him,” she added. “I was wondering what I could give him for his birthday, but I think I am giving him the ‘ultimate gift.’”
And pull it off she did.
“Shocked,” Stone said when asked what his thought were on his lunch with Grote Abell. “Best birthday present ever.”
While the surprise went smoothly, Stone’s wife nonetheless fretted over it, waking up at 4 a.m. in anticipation.
“I’ve been a ball of nerves all day,” she said.
Stone, as his wife said, refused to take credit for his kindness to others.
His friend, Brian Parish, however, would not let him off the hook that easily.
“He comes off gruff to a lot of people, but he does have a very big heart,” he said.
Dustin Ensinger can be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @EnsingerDG.