A woman battling incurable pancreatic cancer at an Arlington, VA hospice got to indulge one last time in a sweet treat she wasn’t sure she’d ever enjoy again: A cool and creamy milkshake. But this wasn't just any milkshake—it was her favorite one from a restaurant in her hometown of Cleveland Heights, OH, 365 miles away.
Fifty-year-old attorney Emily Pomeranz, who had battled and beaten multiple types of cancer over her lifetime, had been spending her final weeks in hospice after her pancreatic cancer returned.
“She had said to me, ‘Oh man, what I would do for a Tommy’s mocha milkshake,” Sam Klein, a childhood friend who had attended elementary school and junior high with Pomeranz, told The Feast. Klein had kept in touch with Pomeranz over the years and reconnected with her while they were both living in the Washington, DC area. It was while he was visiting her at hospice in June that she mentioned the milkshake. “And as we’re laughing about this, talking about our memories of Tommy’s, my mind is racing. I’m thinking, ‘How can I do this?’”
The special shake she was referring to is from Tommy’s Restaurant, a Cleveland-area institution that originated as a soda fountain in the 1970s.
Klein, now a school administrator, sprung into action, sending an email to the restaurant through its website. A few days later, owner Tommy Fello called Klein himself. “First of all I was ecstatic because I had never talked to the ever-famous Tommy. I was like, ‘Wow, it’s Tommy from Tommy’s!’” he described. But more importantly, Klein was thrilled that Fello was excited to help fulfill the request.
After the two did a bit of research on logistics, Tommy’s local ice cream supplier Pierre’s donated dry ice for packing and Fello’s plan was to overnight it via UPS. Klein offered to pay the shipping costs, but Fello insisted he wanted it to be a gift from the restaurant, picking up the $123 tab. “I was thinking it was going to be like $25 or $30,” Klein laughs. “When I found out it was $123, I felt terrible! But he really is such a good-hearted guy.”
Fello shipped the milkshake out at 6 p.m. and by 8:45 a.m. the next morning, Pomeranz had her milkshake in hand.
“I had kept it a secret and sure enough she called that morning and said, ‘I am sure you are behind this. This is the most incredible thing ever. Tommy’s sent me a mocha milkshake!’ And we had a good laugh,” Klein recounts. Even better: She got to share the milkshake with her brothers who visited later that day.
“She lived off that memory for weeks. She came over for dinner more than once and that’s all we talked about. How fun is that that she got something from Tommy’s?” adds Klein. “Rather than feel like she was just another person with cancer, Tommy made her feel like a superstar.”
Sadly, Pomeranz passed away last Friday. After that, Klein posted a photo of his friend enjoying the milkshake along with their story on Facebook and the post has since gone viral, making Emily an actual superstar of sorts. “I joked with my colleagues and my family that wow, Emily wanted to be famous but she had no idea that this was gonna happen.”
“Seeing her in that picture was just something else, I'll tell ya. What a reward,” Fello told Cleveland’s Fox News 8 earlier this week.
Klein returned to Cleveland a few weeks after the milkshake delivery. As usual, he made a trip to Tommy’s, but this time made sure to finally introduce himself to the owner. “I said, ‘Thank you, Tommy, you made such a world of difference.’ I started talking to our waitress and she said, ‘Oh my God, thank you. We all cried as we were packing up this milkshake, what a great thing.’ And you know what? What we learned is that the smallest things can make the biggest differences.”
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