Tennessee couple leave huge tips to waiters to honor their sons

MURFRESBORO, Tenn. (AP) — The server’s knees bent slightly. He put his hand on his heart.

A wide smile appeared on his face, and he hurried to tell a hostess what had just happened. The waiter and hostess slapped their hands in celebration.

On March 1, at the Boulevard Bar and Grille in Murfreesboro, a waiter received a $100 tip from a couple who, after paying their bill, quietly slipped through a side exit before they could show their appreciation.

They didn’t see his reaction, and that’s how they planned it.

These days, after so much tragedy in their lives, Jeanie and Ken Tucker are keeping a close eye on their emotions.

They’ve been through too much pain and they like to spread just a bit of joy without creating a scene.


What if you could turn the worst day of your life into the best day of your life?

That’s what the Tuckers tried to do.

“There’s a difference between joy and happiness,” Ken Tucker said. “Happiness is temporary. Joy is what we strive for.

In 2013, the Tuckers began tipping restaurant servers in Middle Tennessee, usually in Murfreesboro, with huge tips. They keep a log of their gifts, and last Tuesday’s tip at The Boulevard was the 14th time they left between $100 and $600.

Some of their friends started hearing about Tuckers Tips, so they started contributing Tuckers Tips. Kindness is contagious.

“It gives us a lot of hope to do that,” said Jeanie Tucker. “For a few minutes, it takes us out of our situation.”

Their situation is the nightmare no parent wants to find themselves in.


They met in church in 1979.

“I thought he looked really good in his polyester suit,” Jeanie Tucker said with a laugh.

They married on August 9, 1980. “We were poor as church mice,” she said.

Their first son, Hayden, was born in 1982. Alex followed in 1987. And then Mary Elizabeth in 1991.

Alex was reading “The Hobbit” when he was 5 years old. Hayden had such a big personality that his friends called him “The Governor”.

“The boys couldn’t have been more different,” Jeanie said.

The Tuckers recall the time in 1998 when they were at a restaurant with Alex and he wanted to leave a special tip for the waiter. He left his bracelet, which read “What would Jesus do?”

For some reason, Alex was worried about the people serving the tables. He often asked his parents to leave bigger tips.

“You can judge a person’s character by watching them interact with servers,” Ken Tucker said.

As an adult, Alex became a waiter. He worked at Demo’s Restaurant and Maple Street Grill, among others.


In 2013, the Tuckers got that phone call.

Alex had been killed in a traffic accident in Nashville. He left behind a wife and a daughter.

“We were lower than we could be,” Ken Tucker said.

In their grief, they did not know they existed.

They didn’t want to leave the house. They didn’t want to socialize. They didn’t want to eat.

Their friend Mike Sanchez acknowledged their pain and gave them $250, begging them to go out for a nice dinner.

Sanchez had another suggestion: leave a big tip.

“I thought it was a great idea,” said Jeanie Tucker. “But I didn’t think we could do it physically.”

The idea of ​​being with people and eating was almost too much.

In June 2013, they decided to take the $250 to Marina’s on the Square, which had been Alex’s favorite restaurant.

They did their best to make small talk with the waitress that night. They discovered that she was a student at Middle Tennessee State University.

They only spent $25 for their meals. They left a $225 tip. With a simple note: We are doing this in memory of our son Alex.

And they came out.


On Christmas Eve in 2013, they did it again. This time they went to Chili’s and gave the money to a waitress who had a disabled child.

A Christmas tradition was born. The Tuckers started going out on Christmas Eve every year and leaving huge tips with notes on Alex.

Their waiter once was a woman named Alex.

In 2019, they went to a restaurant in Georgia, where they were visiting their other son and his family. Hayden went to dinner with them and he was hooked.

“Hayden was so excited he threw $100 on his own,” Jeanie Tucker said.

Shortly after, the Tuckers received a nightmarish second phone call.

Hayden had died of an aneurysm.


“I never doubted that God loved me,” Jeanie Tucker said.

“God didn’t do that,” Ken Tucker said.

They became determined not to let grief overwhelm them. In a way, tipping servers was the answer.

“Grieving does not bring people together. There is no closure. You don’t get over it,” Ken Tucker said.

Joy is the only antidote they have found.

In 2021, one of the servers they informed thanked her on social media. We learned that the mysterious couple who left money were the Tuckers.

“People have jumped on the bandwagon,” Jeanie Tucker said.

By Christmas, the Tuckers and their friends had raised $1,200.

They decided to go to two restaurants, Parthenon Grille and BJ’s, the first for dinner and the second for dessert.

They left $600 tips at every restaurant.

“I wanted to share it with more people,” Jeanie said.

Their boys would be proud.

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