Source: Sherman Publications

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Local man warms hearts with hot coffee

by Megan Collier

December 01, 2010

Dan Dewey has been jogging the same route in Orion Township for three decades. Ever seen a silver-haired man in red shorts over near Joslyn? That's him red shorts even in winter.

But he's known for something else, too, though he only picked up this custom a nine years back. Every Thursday, Dewey, or Dan the Coffee Man, shows up at a chemotherapy clinic on Woodward with coffee orders for patients and staff stacked four and five trays high on his arm.

Nearly everyone at the clinic expects Dan the Coffee Man each week and knows him as soon as he walks in, said Erica Ramirez, a clinic staffmember.

"He just does it out of the goodness of his heart," she said.

Leslie Ashley is a Lake Orion resident and a patient at the clinic. She sees him jogging up Joslyn and Brown Roads, regardless of the weather, every day.

With just the simple act of bringing coffee, "he lifts everybody's spirits it's really neat," she said. "Out of his own pocket, he purchases whatever people want and delivers it."

Why does he do it? Dewey says he doesn't quite know.

He started visiting the clinic nine years ago with his father, who was a patient at 80-years-old. The first round of chemo came because doctors found lymphoma in his body. For two months, every Thursday, Dewey took his dad for treatment.

He said one day, everyone was sitting there, and Dewey got out his dad's wallet and said, "He's buying coffee for everyone." And in that moment, a tradition sparked.

Dewey's father eventually beat lymphoma, but three years later, he was back at the clinic for colon cancer. The man, now in his mid-80s beat cancer a second time, and it was during those visits that Dan the Coffee Man's coffee tradition flared into a full blown weekly custom.

Later, after his dad passed away, Dewey said "it was just so natural to keep going" to the clinic for coffee orders. "(The waiting room) is the most hopeful place you've ever been in your life. These people do the hardest things they're putting poison in them to try for a cure."

Dewey said, in a way his weekly deliveries are inspired by his mother, who had to put his grandmother in a nursing home.

"Every Monday she went over there. When my grandmother left in 1999, my mom kept going. It didn't dawn on me until awhile ago that that's where I got this from. My mom went for around 15 years until she couldn't drive every Monday to help people she didn't know," he said.

Now, both Dewey's parents have passed and he looks at the clinic almost as a surrogate family.

"I can't really afford this but there's no question that I'm supposed to do this. It does something for me at the same time it does something for (the patients); it probably means more than I think it does," he said.

Dewey said he enjoys visiting the clinic because the place carries a certain sense of wry humor. One nurse, for example, doesn't like coffee and asked for Bud Light when Dewey was taking orders. So, he came back to the clinic with a six-pack. Dewey said when the doctor looked in the fridge later, exclaiming "Beer?!," the nurse calmly said, "Sorry, doc, I got 'em counted."

"They keep an atmosphere so that you wouldn't know where you were," said Dewey. "The whole place is upbeat."

So, if you ever see a silver-haired man running in red shorts in Orion Township, stop and give him a good-natured hard time the sheriff's deputies do. When they see him running, they pull up behind him, sirens and lights blaring. In the mean time, Dan the Coffee Man will continue his morning jogs in preparation for marathons all over the country. Once, he even ran over 2,400 miles in four months, cross country.