A scene that was both poignant and joyful unfolded at Underwood’s Cafeteria Thursday as Navy veteran Jimmy Ratliff, surrounded by about 15 family members, ate lunch at one of his favorite restaurants and was honored by the hospice that is caring for him.

Ratliff, a 79-year-old Rising Star resident, is a patient of Kindred Hospice in Brownwood. Ratliff received an American flag pin and a certificate of appreciation from hospice director Gay McNabb and bereavement and bereavement and volunteer coordinator Allison Bryant as Ratliff, his wife, Carolyn and other family members from various Texas cities prepared to eat.

The recognition was part of Kindred Hospice’s We Honor Veterans program. 

Ratliff served in the Navy from 1958 to 1962 and was an aircraft electrician.

Underwood’s staff placed the family at a large table in a side room. A visibly moved Paul Underwood, co-owner and operator of the restaurant, wrote down Ratliff’s lunch order and said he was taking care of lunch. “We’re thrilled to have you, and just learning about all of your accomplishments is a real treat for us, too,” Underwood told Ratliff.

Carolyn Ratliff said her husband doesn’t have long to live. “One of the things I wanted to do is take him to his favorite places to eat,” she said.

“We ate at Underwood’s when we lived in Lubbock and it has been one of our favorite places to eat. Actually I think it is our favorite.”

As McNabb presented Ratliff with the pin, she thanked him for his service. 

“Thank you for the sacrifices you made and your willingness to serve our country,” McNabb said. “You endured hardships  and you were willing to risk your like to maintain our freedom. On behalf of Kindred Hospice and the volunteers please accept our gratitude. When you see this pin, know that your service to our nation is deeply appreciated. We thank you.”

Smiling broadly, Ratliff said,  “I don’t know what to say. I’m kind of overwhelmed. I don’t exactly know what to say. My time is getting short. Somebody will come along and take my place.”

Pam Hutton, one of Ratliff’s two daughters, told her father he is irreplaceable.