To celebrate her 101st birthday, Ruth Parker chose the same restaurant she’s eaten at twice a week for the past 18 years: Taco Bell.
Parker, who frequents the Taco Bell in Carbondale, Ill., every Tuesday and Friday, commemorated the milestone in the same fast-food restaurant, which was decorated with flowers, balloons and a message on the marquee sign.
"I feel alright. I feel good at 101, I guess," Parker told KFVS-TV, adding that she and her friends celebrate every birthday at the Taco Bell.
Parker said when she moved back to southern Illinois, she wanted to find a place where she could enjoy some coffee and read the newspaper. At the time, Taco Bell didn’t offer a cup of joe on its menu but an employee made a cup of instant coffee for her instead — making Parker a regular customer.
“No matter what, we all know Miss Ruth, and we all made her a part of our lives, and we’ve talked to her, and we just love her to death,” Rebecca Gefro, the Taco Bell manager, told KFVS.
“We’ll see her at 102 next year, and we’ll make it even bigger,” Gefro said.
Over the years, Parker speculates that she’s tried everything offered on the menu. But now, Parker says she’s “hooked” on the Nacho Fries, a limited-time menu item Taco Bell reintroduced in July.
She's also free to order coffee now, as the Carbondale location has started offering the item on its menu now that Taco Bell began serving breakfast a few years back.
Taco Bell has been the site of, or helped with, many memorable occasions for its customers nationwide.
In May, two teenagers took their prom photos at a Pennsylvania Taco Bell. A pregnant Kentucky woman is tracking her baby’s growth with Taco Bell menu items. And last year, a Florida couple took some wedding photos inside the Mexican-inspired fast-food chain.
"Whether it's as a backdrop to senior grad photos, a wedding venue or a birthday destination from 1 to 101, Taco Bell's role in our fan's biggest life-moments show the power of the brand in culture and the importance of our Team Members' role in the community," Taco Bell spokesman Matt Prince said in a statement.