Losing a loved one is a very hard thing to go through and it can have many negative consequences on one’s life. After you have gone through the mourning process, you have to put the pieces of your life back together. This often includes dealing with things that the person who passed away left behind.
Losing her husband
Deedee Zgonis and her loving husband lived in New Hampshire, and had a very happy marriage, until he unfortunately passed away in 2012. Deedee was devastated by her husband’s passing and tried hard to cope with the loss, but the pain was hard to bear. The couple owned a pizza store in their hometown town of Bedford and Deedee used to help Yianni with the business. After her husband’s untimely death, it was Deedee’s responsibility to run the store. But could she do it alone?
Taking over the restaurant
With her husband no longer alive to help her run the place, Deedee had to either keep running the restaurant or close its doors. Yet she couldn’t do that to her husband, so she decided to take over the restaurant while coming to terms with his death. While Deedee had spent time in the restaurant, there was still so much she had to learn. This would be a big task for anyone and even more so for a widow still who was grieving.
Working through the grief
Deedee was left to navigate the confusing world of finances as she was learning how to run a business, teaching herself how to run a payroll, and struggling to make her mortgage payments. Deedee’s friends and family noticed that she was having a hard time adjusting to her new reality. One of her daughter’s left her job at a law firm to help her out with the pizzeria. Deedee did not let her hardships stop her and she continued to work in the midst of her grief.
Leaving her job
Thankfully for Deedee, her daughter offered to help her through this challenging time and sacrificed her own career to help her mother. When asked in an interview why she left her job at a law firm, Vickie Zgonis explained, “It’s family; it’s kind of what you do,” she continued “If they need you, you step up to the plate and do it.” With her daughter by her side, Deedee continued to work hard to keep her business running.
Deedee was determined to succeed and she worked hard everyday to teach herself the ins and outs of the business and kept going. She had a mantra that she would often remind herself of. She would say, “No matter what happens, you can overcome it.” Deedee was taking her own advice and trying her hardest to overcome the obstacles set before her. Although it seemed an impossible task sometimes, Deedee just kept working harder and wanted to make her husband’s memory stay alive. One day, out of the blue, Deedee received a surprising phone call.
A surprising call
The call was from Eastern Bank. Deedee initially thought they were calling about bills or mortgage payments, however, the call had nothing to do with her payments. The bank was calling to inform Deedee of some good news! She was the winner of a project called “Good Things Happen to Good People.” Without Deedee’s knowledge, her banker, Debbie Blondin, nominated her for the contest. So what did she receive for winning?
A weekend getaway
When asked why she nominated Deedee Zgonis, Debbie Blondin told the news, “She has a fabulous local business, but… she’s one of those people who gives probably more than she gets.” Blondin knew how hard Deedee was working and that she was still dealing with her husband’s death and she thought she needed some time off. The bank gave Zgonis a trip to Florida for a weekend at a spa.
More surprises ahead
She enjoyed a truly relaxing weekend at the spa and embraced her chance to finally be able to take a break from work. She enjoyed her special massages and manicure and embraced not having to think about work. Deedee could have never imagined that more surprises were coming her way. While she was away, her close friends were working hard to plan an amazing surprise for her. They knew how deserving she was and they wanted to ease her burden.
Getting back to work
As her plane landed, she headed straight back to the restaurant to catch up on the work she missed. Now that she was back from vacation, it was time to get back to her every day routine. She could not have prepared herself for what she was about to see. When Deedee opened the door to the restaurant, she was lost for words. The pizzeria was completely transformed.
A brand new restaurant
When she walked in, Deedee covered her mouth and shouted “Oh my God! Are you kidding me?” She could not believe what she was seeing. The whole restaurant was renovated and all of her friends, family, and volunteers were standing in the restaurant and waiting to see her reaction. Was this real?
A gift for Deedee
It all became clear to Deedee in that moment. The reason she was sent on a spa trip to Florida was not just because her friend’s wanted her to have a vacation. Her loved ones were planning to renovate the pizzeria and surprise her and they knew they could not do it if she was there. Everyone knew that Deedee thought about redoing the restaurant for a long time but she could not afford it. Her friends decided to all come together and do it for her as a gift.
She couldn’t believe it
In an interview with the local news, Deedee recalled the moment she walked into her new store. She said, “I couldn’t believe it,” she continued, “My knees just buckled from under me.” Deedee could not believe the sacrifices that her loved ones made for her and everyone could tell by her excited reaction. When asked if she liked the renovation, Zgonis gave a priceless answer.
An emotional reaction
When her loved asked Zgonis what she thought of the new restaurant she responded, “It’s frickin’ beautiful! Deedee could not hold back the tears at seeing the beautiful new pizzeria and wished her husband was there to witness it. What she didn’t know, was that there were two more surprises waiting around the corner for her. When she found out, she burst into tears.
Her children were there
She could not believe her eyes! Her daughters who had moved away from New Hampshire had come to the brand new opening of the store! The bank had brought them in to be involved in decorating the restaurant. At the sight of her children, Deedee was completely overwhelmed and tears began streaming down her face. She could not believe that her family and community came together to do something so nice for her. She was so grateful for everyone’s efforts in helping her.
Grateful for the remodel
Zgonis ran to hug and kiss her daughters and she was so happy to see them. Deedee was so thankful and beyond grateful that her bank had chosen her for this project. Later on in her interview with the local news, Deedee explained that she wanted to remodel her restaurant but she had to chose between buying a new pizza oven or redoing the store and it was such a hard decision. Now she did not have to make the choice and she got both!
A deserving person
The employees at the bank heard about Zgonis’ situation and they wanted to take some of the weight off her shoulders. Deedee was so grateful for her the help from the people around her and she said, “People come into my life that are just beautiful people, and I’m lucky that way,” she continued on to say, “I don’t know what makes me more deserving than anyone else.” Zgonis was always modest and felt that she did not deserve the gift that she received. But when everyone saw just how happy she was it made it all worth it.
The employee’s reaction
The employees at the pizzeria also had an emotional reaction to the renovation. They knew how deserving their boss was and they were so happy that the restaurant got a much needed transformation. One of the employees, Maddie Grocott said of Deedee’s reaction, “ I cried.” All of the employees at the restaurant were thrilled for Deedee and they were thankful of be a part of such a tight knit and strong community.
“The perfect candidate”
The bank considered Deedee as “the perfect candidate” to receive to generous gift. They knew how hard she was working to keep her business alive and she was doing it while still mourning the loss of her beloved husband. She was described as, “the sweetheart of Eastern Bank” by Blondin who was happy to see that Deedee was grateful for the help they gave her.
Her daughters moved away
Deedee had three daughters, all of whom had moved away. They all came to surprise their mother and Deedee was overjoyed to see them as they do not get a chance to get together often. Themie is one of the daughters and she lives in California. She said of the new restaurant, “We just cannot describe how grateful we are for this entire process, and how beautiful Pizza Bella is looking.”
If her husband was there
Another daughter, Litza lives in New York and she explained the this was exactly what her mother needed. She said it was “really validating” for Deedee to be nominated by the bank and that it gave her, “the extra boost of confidence that she deserves.” Deedee’s third daughter Vicki spoke about how she thought her father would react saying that he would have been “floored” by the renovation and the community coming together for Deedee.
Home for the holidays
Eastern Bank already did so much for the Zgonis family but they were about to do one more thing that they did not intend to do. Since all of Deedee’s daughters were in New Hampshire to surprise her, they were able to stay for Thanksgiving! Zgonis could spend the holiday with her loved ones and she was so happy to have all of her children home for the holiday. It meant the world to her.