‘It brought tears to me’: Derby airman thanks Carrabba’s for wife’s special dinner


Tonight a Derby couple is taking us back in time to share their appreciation of a local business around the day of love.

Mark and Rita Tillison say the year was 2009, and Mark was deployed to Afghanistan.

We met with them this afternoon to share how a restaurant helped make that year’s Valentine’s Day and anniversary, so special.

Mark says he wanted to do something special for his wife while he was away overseas 10 years back. So he contacted Carrabba’s Italian Grill, and what happened next surprised the couple and may surprise you.

At Carrabba’s Italian Grill Sunday, you could find the Tillisons. They didn’t stop in just for the italian.

“I remember sitting in Afghanistan and doing exactly this in Wichita, Kansas, looking for something to do,” said Mark Tillison, Derby.

Mark Tillison says when searching for a Valentine’s Day and anniversary dinner spot, he experienced déjà vu. It was 10 years ago while deployed in Afghanistan that he set up his wife and her friends at Carrabba’s for a special dinner.

“You’re some of my favorite customers,” said Joe Parten, Carrabba’s Managing Partner.

What Mark didn’t know at the time, was its managing partner, would make it more meaningful.

“They took care of her and then a big surprise is Joe never charged me so that was pretty cool,” said Mark.

“It was the right thing to do,” said Parten.

Managing partner Joe Parten says he remembers Mark’s call, and it’s one he will never forget. He says he didn’t do it for a thank you.

“When we got somebody that’s spending their time overseas and can’t be with their loved one, it’s something special to be able to take care of them,” said Parten.

The free meals and flower bouquet meant a lot to the couple back then…

“It brought tears to me that he would think that much about us and want to make it that special for me,” said Rita Tillison, Derby.

And today which is why they stopped in for lunch.

“Hey its been a pleasure…thank you,” said Parten.

The Tillisons are high school sweethearts and have seven children together. And Mark says there is not a day in their marriage that he didn’t doubt she is the one person for him.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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