Waffle House waitress gets needed help to fund funeral for regular customer

Waitress able to plan funeral for former customer

CONCORD, NC (WBTV) - Mike Pardalis sometimes didn't talk at all. He might have been quiet, but his impact on Mandi Gardner was huge.

Gardner has worked at the Waffle House in Concord for 11 years and says sometimes Mike would doze off in a corner booth. But he was nice and he was a long-time regular customer.

"Rough around the edges with a marshmallow middle," is how Mandi describes the man she knew for many years. "But he was a sweet man. He's not going to just walk away from you with your keys locked in a car standing there with a baby."

The last time Mandi saw Mike, he helped unlock her car. Now, she is returning a much bigger favor.

On April 10, Mike had a heart attack and died alone in his van.

For about two weeks, his body was at NorthEast Medical Center. Not a soul called about claiming him. Not unless you count Mandi.

"There's no memorial, there's no headstone, no goodbye, nothing for someone to track down and find," Mandi told WBTV on Tuesday.

That was until Mandi started a fundraiser to raise the money needed to claim Mike's body and provide him a respectable service.

The story went viral after it aired on WBTV and many of you stepped up to help Mandi make her goals happen.

"Instead of being discarded, he's getting a Veteran's funeral," she told WBTV on Wednesday.

Many people came forward with information on how Mike's funeral could be provided for free because he was an Air Force veteran.

Now, Mandi has received word that he's eligible to be buried at the VA National Cemetery in Salisbury because he was honorably discharged.

Mandi has received more than $2,000 in donations from people interested in helping pay for Mike's funeral.

Now it appears the cost will be covered. Many of the donors on the online fundraising site have suggested Mandi donate the money to military organizations.

Mike will be laid to rest with full honors Wednesday, April 30, at 11 a.m. at the VA National Cemetery in Salisbury.

The funeral is open to the public, and everyone is encouraged to attend.

Copyright 2014 WBTV. All rights reserved.