Thank you, man in the purple shirt

News-DemocratJanuary 19, 2014 

While a 40th birthday is cause to celebrate, Kathi Bell's ended with a surprise.

The retired schoolteacher, who lives in Mascoutah, was out to lunch with friends.

"There were four of us eating at the Neiman-Marcus (restaurant) at Old Orchard Shopping Center in Chicago," she said.

At the table with Kathi were Beverly Skarulis, Debbie Cohen and Kat Parrish. A variety of photos were taken to capture the moment.

"It was 1995, so everybody was shooting film. We all sent each other pictures."

Kathi said it was a long and enjoyable lunch, spent catching up with women she had started teaching with before she moved to the metro-east. She retired in 2011 from O'Fallon Township High School, where she taught computers.

When it came time to pay the bill, about $90, the waitress said it had been taken care of.

"She told us the man sitting behind us paid it." They asked for his name, but the waitress said he didn't want to give it.

It wasn't until her birthday photos arrived in the mail that Kathi and her friends realized they'd captured the do-gooder on film.

Holding the photo her friend Debbie took, she pointed to the stranger who gave her a surprise birthday gift: "There he is, the man in the purple shirt."

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