Waitress Marleigh Fiedler of Balistreri's Italian/American Ristorante reacts with gratitude after Seth Collins of Lexington, Ky., gave her a $500 tip in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Tuesday, July 16, 2013.

Michael Sears, Mct - Mct

Brother travels to fulfill dying man's wish of leaving big tips for servers

  • July 17, 2013 - 3:37 PM

WAUWATOSA, Wis. — The junior pizza with tomatoes and olives that 20-year-old waitress Marleigh Fiedler served a Kentucky tourist wasn't big — but her tip was.

Fiedler, who works at Balistreri's Italian American Ristorante in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa, received $500 from a man fulfilling his brother's last wish.

Seth Collins said his brother, Aaron, died more than a year ago, leaving a will that asked his family to leave an unusually large tip for an unsuspecting server.

"I mean $500 for a . . . pizza," Aaron Collins wrote.

Seth Collins, 33, posted a video about the wish on YouTube, and people began donating money to fulfill it. Collins told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ( ) he had received $60,000 and left tips for 57 servers so far. Most of the servers were in Kentucky, where Collins lives, and other parts of the South.

On June 17, however, he started a road trip that he hopes will allow him to leave a big tip for at least one server in each state.

"People donated from all across the country," Collins said. "So I wanted to share it all around the country."

Fiedler said her shift finished at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, but she stayed late to take care of Collins' order. Before she left, he pulled her aside and handed her $500.

"I can't believe it, I'm shaking right now," she said.

The money will go toward her education at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, where she is studying political science, she said.

Collins said the tip that affected him most was No. 51 in Charleston, W.Va., the first stop on his 50-state road trip. The server had lost his mother two weeks earlier.

"To be able to connect with him through the loss of a loved one . . . it really meant a lot to me," Collins said.

His mother Tina Rae Collins, 61, joined him in leaving tips in Kentucky but said she didn't have the energy for the cross-country trip. Still, the mission gives her great joy.

"It thrills me to think about Aaron and his wishes and having them taken all across the country," she said in a phone interview. "I always told him he was going to do something special, and now it is happening."

Aaron Collins, 30, had worked in computer repair for his brother-in-law. His death was never officially ruled a suicide, but it was sudden, Seth Collins said. He found the will on Aaron Collins' computer.

"The main thing is keeping (Aaron's) spirit alive," Collins said. "But it is also about sharing his generosity, connecting with people and helping them understand that sometimes you can do one nice thing and tens of thousands of people will be happy about it or affected by it."

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