Dan Laver wouldn’t miss a morning at Rosie’s Country Cafe.
For 20 years he had breakfast at this South Surrey diner: same seat, same table, same order.
“I always thought if he wasn’t here by nine we should go looking for him,” said Alana Dudar, who served him most mornings, his toast always pointing north.
Inside the King George Highway diner last Thursday, a small group of staff and regulars gathered around a tray of egg salad sandwiches cut into neat triangles.
Dan – most knew him only by his first name – wasn’t there. His table was empty.
“He used to say it was a great funeral if they had the egg salad sandwiches. That’s why we have egg salad sandwiches,” said Kim Buckoke, a former Rosie’s waitress.
On June 3, while driving on Lougheed Highway near Mission, Dan’s camper collided with a car head-on. The driver of the car died at the scene. Dan was airlifted to hospital and died a few weeks later.
Thursday’s gathering was to give Dan “one last hurrah,” said owner Kirsten Malone.
“He didn’t want a funeral or anything. That was in his will. But we kind of took it upon ourselves to do something.”
Tim Wiebe is a regular at Rosie’s who always sits at the table farthest from Dan’s. That wouldn’t stop them from having a conversation.
“He was very original. He was a bit old school. He just had such a good heart, as much as he would complain about other people,” said Wiebe.
“He was kind of a focal point here.”
Dan was a bachelor who lived in South Surrey and owned a small business, Dan’s Disposal. He drove Harley Davidson motorcycles and had the rough leather-vest exterior to match.
Dan loved camping – he’d go alone – and the morning of the crash he pulled his motorhome and dirt bike trailer into Rosie’s parking lot to have breakfast before heading to his usual getaway in Harrison.
Most mornings he tried to keep others at a distance, spreading out a newspaper not so much to read it but to keep others from sitting next to him.
Yet staff and regulars at Rosie’s – his extended family – saw through his gruff personality.
“He tried to keep everyone at arm’s length, but it didn’t really work. We could all see right through it,” said Rosie Mitchell, the diner’s chef and namesake. “But he had an image to uphold.”
Grouchy? Maybe. But Mitchell remembers his kind heart the most.
One day her car broke down. Dan drove her to the grocery store and to work the next day. Another morning the diner ran out of coffee filters. Dan disappeared, later returning with a fistful of filters from a nearby Tim Hortons.
Dan thrived on routine, but something else kept him coming back to Rosie’s.
“It’s home. It’s the kitchen. This is where everybody comes,” Mitchell said.
Over coffee and egg salad sandwiches Thursday, his family at Rosie’s shared memories around a small-and-blurry framed photo – the only image anyone could find of Dan.
Said longtime breakfast pal Wiebe: “I keep thinking I just missed him this morning. That he’ll be in later.”