** As we wind down to the final days of this difficult year, OGTV is tipping our hat to all of the essential workers on the front lines with this uplifting story about a New Jersey man who has found a way to do this difficult job for years, even without his eyesight! **
The flickering neon sign reflects eerily off the aging, chrome exterior; a long smooth marble counter with spinning stools draws your gaze left and right as you enter; the checkered linoleum floor seeps under the rows of back-to-back leather booths enveloped by the rain streaked wrap-around windows. You may think you've entered a typical American roadside eatery, but your experience here will be anything but ordinary.
You have just stepped into the Bendix Diner, a staple in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey since the 1940's. It's no surprise that The Bendix can serve up a sizzling Burger with deep fried onion rings and a frothy chocolate shake. What is unique about this meal is the waiter who delivers it to your table – his name is John Diakakis, and he is blind.
John was born with Retinitis Pigmentosa. RP is a rare genetic disorder that involves the breakdown and loss of cells in the retina. John could still see shadows in his early teens while working in his parents' restaurant in New York City, but his condition was deteriorating steadily. Despite the hardship, John was an excellent student and Senior Class President at North Rockland High School. John continued his studies at Ithaca College where he studied Psychology and Business and had a great experience." It was a lot of fun," he recalled. "Being around so many diverse people and different personalities made the best [of me] come out."
After college, John felt the urge to return to the family business and worked alongside his brother, mother and dad, but as he aged, things became darker, the shadows vanished, and by the time he turned 30 he was completely blind. This was also a turbulent time of highs and lows during which John met the woman he would marry while at the same time his father passed away, increasing his responsibilities at The Bendix.
Dedicating himself to his family and his work, John took over a lead role at the diner while he and his wife raised three boys. The oldest, Tony, who was recently accepted to Harvard University, has worked with his parents over the years and has watched his Dad cope with his condition with positivity and hard work.. "Noticing my Dad's lack of fear when faced with his daily challenges provided a blue print for me that I applied to my own life," he reflected. "He's never been afraid to try new things and has been a great leader."
The Bendix may seem like a time capsule from years gone by, but it continues to thrive. Meet the hard working family that keeps its spirit alive and the blind waiter that helps you see what it means to live a meaningful life.
Follow them on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bendix-Diner/151668004866220
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