Posted: Oct 4, 2012 4:16 PM by Emily Spain
Updated: Oct 5, 2012 8:51 AM
CALIFORNIA - In the town of California, many trade the golden arches for some of the homemade grub across the street at the Nic Nac Cafe. At this restaurant laughter fills customers' cups, large personalities come to mingle and giant hearts come to show they care. But the character who serves the most generous portion is the smallest of them all.
"I weighed like four pounds when I was born, so it started out Tina and then Tiny," Nic Nac Cafe employee Tiny Walters said.
At the Nic Nac Cafe Tiny Walters is the secret ingredient. She's been in the mix since 1949.
"[I started working here when] I was 13 years old," Tiny said.
For more than 60 years, Tiny's made Nic Nac snacks.
"I'm usually in the kitchen doing a little prep work, giving them trouble," she said.
Nearly 40 of those years, she owned the cafe.
"She's one of the best bosses I've ever had in my life," said 84-year-old Nic Nac Cafe employee Mae Oneal.
Even after selling the restaurant in 1999, Tiny can't seem to get away.
"Well, if I didn't come up here everyday, I don't know. I'd really miss it," she said.
While the Nic Nac Cafe has been this woman's constant, life still found a way to deliver a tall order.
"She was diagnosed in 2008 with esophageal cancer," said Maurita Swartwood, a friend of Tiny's.
"When they told us she only had 3 months to live that was the hardest part," Nic Nac Cafe owner Jackie Heather said.
After her diagnosis, Tiny traveled to MD Anderson in Houston, Texas for help and a second opinion. A few years later she was also diagnosed with lung cancer.
"Anybody that has any kind of cancer whatsoever I feel for them," Tiny said.
At this point, after all those years of serving her neighbors at the Nic Nac, it was time for the folks at the Nic Nac to serve her.
"We had a benefit auction, served food... and raised some money to help her," Heather said.
Tiny's team made a big difference when it raised $9,000 to help her pay her medical bills and travel expenses.
"Everybody is so nice and understanding, you couldn't ask for a better bunch," Tiny said.
"I think we're lucky to have her," Swartwood said.
You could call this a David and Goliath story, where 3 months of life turned into 4 years and counting.
"So far she's had clear check-ups since then...previous cancer hasn't shown up again since 2008," Swartwood said.
"It's a miracle. She's strong, she's a fighter," Heather said.
The Nic Nac crew is holding another fundraiser for Tiny to help pay for her medical and travel expenses. The restaurant is holding a silent auction until the end of October. On Tiny's bucket list? Go to the Ellen DeGeneres Show. For more information on the silent auction you can visit the cafe's Facebook page by clicking here.