Mum ‘in tears’ after cancer-struck couple’s surprise bill
Two childhood sweethearts received an unexpectedly heartwarming surprise during their 50th wedding anniversary celebration at the renowned Hickory’s Smokehouse restaurant in Southport.
Paul and Dawn Molineux, inseparable since their teens, were coming to terms with Paul’s terminal cancer diagnosis during the meal – but a gesture from the staff took the evening to another level.
The couple enjoyed more than £80 of food and drink at Hickory’s Smokehouse restaurant in Southport on Wednesday, August 2, before the surprise bill came.
What they discovered left them utterly stunned – the total cost had been reduced to £0, accompanied by a heartwarming message on the receipt: “Happy anniversary! The bill is on us x.”
They had met when they were just 14 and 16, and had been inseperable ever since.
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The gesture was orchestrated by the restaurant staff, particularly deputy general manager James Davies.
Paul recounted the moment with disbelief, telling the Mirror: “We just couldn’t believe it. The bill was £80.
“We found the guy, and we said, ‘you are joking, aren’t you? He said, ‘no, no, I was very touched by what you said.
“I said, ‘what, you’re paying £80 for the bill?’ He said, ‘yep, yep, I’ve got the discretion, and I was so touched by it and everything.'”
The couple’s actual wedding anniversary falls on August, 29, but, because of Paul’s condition, they’re striving to live “every day to the full” and didn’t want to wait to celebrate.
Paul, 68, continued: “My wife was just in tears when she saw the gesture. We just couldn’t believe it.”
The pair now see James as a “lifelong friend”, and have even invited him along to the couple’s anniversary bash on August 26 – an invitation he has happily accepted.
Dawn, reflecting on their journey, proudly described Paul as her “amazing guy.”
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The pair’s incredible bond began when they were teenagers at a chance meeting that evolved into a lifelong partnership. Paul had been due to join a pal and his girlfriend, but asked if she would bring someone along so that Paul wouldn’t be left a “gooseberry”.
He chose Dawn’s name from a list – and the couple were married just two years later, aged 18 and 16.
Paul, highlighting the couple’s harmony, noted: “We’ve just made friends with so many different people, and it really does help.”
He said of his wife: “She’s just such a caring person. […] She’ll do anything for anybody. So thoughtful and just doesn’t expect anything in return. She’s always thinking of others and not herself.”
Dawn said: “He’s definitely my childhood sweetheart. I actually don’t know how I will cope when I lose him but we are making fantastic memories for as long as we can.”
Paul was first diagnosed with bowel cancer during the Covid pandemic, and underwent surgery which he says went “wonderfully”.
However, on January 10, he was told the cancer had spread to his stomach and was now inoperable.
He was given an 18-month life expectancy if he pursued chemotherapy and told he had six months if he didn’t.
Opting to take chemotherapy, Paul said he and Dawn like to joke about their plight as a way of coping with it.
Paul explained: “I got bought a shaver recently, and it’s got a 12-month guarantee, but you can extend it to two years. My wife just turned around and said, ‘well it’s not worth you doing that is it?’ This is what we do, this is how we cope with it.”
Hickory’s Smokehouse told The Mirror: “We are thrilled that Dawn and Paul chose to celebrate their special day with us, they are a wonderful couple and we are so glad we were able to show them some Southern Hospitality and that they had a great time. We wish them all the best from the whole team.”
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