HOPKINS, Minn. -- Something special keeps happening inside the downtown Hopkins Dairy Queen.
Last month, the manager made headlines for refusing to serve a woman who stole money from a blind customer. But the most recent act of kindness comes by way of a customer whose spirit is still inspiring others months after his death.
Dozens of people are paying kindness forward in memory of one of the Dairy Queen's most loyal customers, Dr. David Dragotis.
Dr. Dragotis, who everyone knew as Dr. D, was a longtime family doctor based in Chaska. Six months ago, esophageal cancer put him in the same hospital he often practiced in. Even there, he wrote prescriptions for his patients up until his death. He died last April at age 74. Kindness was always his practice. His family says he so committed to the art of medicine, he only took one day off a week.
"People always say he was an old school doctor. He took time to meet his patients and understand. We have heard stories of being crying in the waiting room because he is not here anymore," said his daughters Katia Dragotis and Daphne Chapman.
His family called him "Papou", which is Greek for grandfather. They decided their grief could be eased with a gesture after his own heart, at his favorite place. At least once a week on Wednesdays, his day off, he would drive nearly 30 miles to the Hopkins Dairy Queen. His memories there stretch back to childhood when Hopkins was his boyhood home.
"He has left such a big hole in our lives because he was such a big presence. I just thought it would be nice to honor him in a way he would love - which was through ice cream," said Chapman.
So midday Wednesday, his family left nearly $200 with Dairy Queen Manager Joey Prusak, and asked him to pay for every order until the money ran out. They placed signs with Dr. D's story on the counter, and asked any moved by his spirit to "Pay it Forward for Papou."
When customers learned about the sweet gesture, many were speechless, others choked up.
"It was beautiful, that was awesome. Their dad would be proud of them. I think of my dad, and that's great," said Jamie Carter, through tears. "To know he was a doctor that really cared? The old school got me. Thank you so much."
Within an hour, customers did pay it forward, leaving hundreds of their own dollars in cash. The money donated by strangers brought the totaled more than $700 and the acts of kindness stretched through dinner hour.
"It's a tremendous idea to continue his legacy, great thing the family is doing," said customer Don Froyd. "Everybody has got to look at what is being done and see what they can do to make things one step better for everybody else."
His family created a hash tag #payitforwardforpapou, in hopes others can continue the acts of kindness and document them through social media.
"Every time he came out of the room, he said to the patient, it's been a pleasure to serve you," said Irene Olson, who worked for Dr. D for 30 years.
Now, his loved ones hope he can continue his service, in the sweetest of ways.
"In his honor, because he was an incredible father, grandfather and incredible doctor and human being. They don't make them like that anymore," said Chapman.
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