TRAVERSE CITY – Brian O’Hara was just looking to do something special for his uncle.
Lewis McDonald, who turns 98 on Boxing Day, has been isolated in an assisted living facility in Rockford, watching TV on a small screen. O’Hara believed that a WWII B-17 pilot deserved something a little better and a little bigger.
O’Hara walked into the Traverse City Best Buy store on November 28 looking for a good deal on a new TV for his uncle. By the time O’Hara walked out of the store, the case didn’t begin to describe her extraordinary shopping experience.
After asking for a discount on a 43-inch TV, the Best Buy seller asked his boss if he could lower the retail price a bit for a WWII veteran who flew 14 missions over it. from Germany and Czechoslovakia.
“He came back with the Deputy Director,” O’Hara recalled of the Deputy Director whom he only knew by first name Tim. “He said, ‘We have to take care of our veterans.’ They went to the back for about five minutes and came back and said, ‘You come in front of the store when you’re done shopping. We have chosen a television for you.
“He said, ‘There will be no charge for you.’ I was like, ‘Wow, that’s really cool.’ “
Tim turned out to be Tim Umstead, Geek Squad Manager at Traverse City Best Buy. When O’Hara left the store, he discovered that the box at the front of the store contained a 50 inch Samsung Ultra High Definition television.
The cost of the television is not coming from some kind of special contingency fund from the national retail chain, said Claire Larson, public relations specialist at Best Buy in Richfield, Minnesota.
“It was a donation provided by Tim,” Larson said.
Umstead said he is just doing what he can for a group that means so much to him.
“I love working for Best Buy and helping people here,” Umstead said in an email. “When I heard Mr. O’Hara’s story I was so moved and it reminded me of my own father, who is a retired Marine, and my grandfather, who was a Marine during World War II.
“And it was just the right thing to do, especially around Christmas time.”
Adam Ziegler, general manager of Traverse City Best Buy, said none of the details of the shopping history came as a shock.
“Tim embodies the spirit of giving back that is deeply ingrained throughout Best Buy,” Ziegler said in a company public relations email. “This year he wanted to impact someone on a more personal level, he was pushed to act in a meaningful way for this family. Not surprisingly, as Tim is the kind of person to give you the shirt on. his back, even though it’s already hot, he’s just a genuine, awesome guy.
Getting something for a great guy was what led O’Hara to become Best Buy two days after Thanksgiving.
“I was like, ‘I’m going to buy my uncle a bigger TV,'” the Lake County man said. “He’s got a 32-inch TV and (because of the settings) it’s black on the sides. It is as if he is watching on a 20 inch television.
O’Hara, 58, is a retired educator. He was a teacher and athletic director at Benzie Central and a former director of Onekama.
And despite being four decades apart, O’Hara said he has a unique connection to McDonald’s.
“He must be a really good friend of mine for the last few years,” O’Hara said. “If we were any closer we would probably be best friends. We make each other laugh and we have a lot in common. He is also my last link with the maternal side of the family.
“I did it because he’s my uncle and he’s a WWII veteran. And I love her. If he has to be stuck in his bedroom all the time in a nursing home, he at least deserves a TV he can see.
The next day, O’Hara delivered the television to his uncle at Boulder Creek Assisted Living in Rockford. O’Hara said McDonald’s was lucky to be here in more ways than one.
“One flight, after they dropped their payload (of bombs), they took the anti-aircraft bomb,” O’Hara said. “They had to stop at an airport in France. It was supposed to be controlled by the Germans, but luckily it wasn’t.
“When they got out there were over 250 bullet holes and bullet holes on the plane. My uncle said that one (hole) was so big you could stick your head in. It was very lucky.
After the war, O’Hara said his uncle spent a year flying over and mapping Greenland. Like many veterans of WWII and The Greatest Generation, O’Hara said McDonald’s doesn’t see his role as anything special.
“He just thought he was doing his job,” O’Hara said. “He didn’t think it was serious. He didn’t think he was heroic, even though he was.