A Californian man became the poster boy of sorts for the Black Bear Diner last week.
Dick Waterman, 82, of Tehachapi, Calif., checked off visiting the last of the franchise’s 65 diners by eating in Sequim on Sept. 10.
Since, February 2008, he’s journeyed on his own to nine states to eat at each franchise including five diners that are now closed. The idea to do the full dining experience came after the death of his wife five years ago from Parkinson’s disease.
“When Jean passed away I didn’t realize I was so busy taking care of her,” Waterman, a retired electronics salesman, said.
On a trip in Bend, Ore., he ate at the Black Bear Diner and the idea came to him like an ordered plate of Bigfoot Chicken Fried Steak.
“I decided I needed something to do,” he said.
Every visit he keeps trying new things but always takes his coffee black.
He spent part of the sunny day in Sequim seeing the sites before returning to Seattle.
“Wherever I am it’s the greatest place I’ve ever been,” he said.
Black Bear Diner didn’t learn about Waterman’s journey until 47 restaurants in. From there they coordinated sending him to new restaurant openings.
On hand for the Sequim visit were Waterman’s son Rick, Brett and Trisha Wirta, owners of the Sequim franchise, Jolisa Johnson, Black Bear Diner’s corporate marketing director, and David Doty, chief marketing officer. In other restaurants, Waterman has taken his other son Jeff. He’s even met the franchise’s founders Bob Manley and Bruce Dean yet his first interviews for his experience weren’t until he came to Sequim.
“In all 65 times, I’ve never had a bad experience,” he said. “The law of averages say I’ve got to have a bad experience at some point, but it hasn’t happened.”
Visiting the diners hasn’t been Waterman’s only notable experience, for almost three years, he test drove cars for Hyundai and Kia.
But for now he’ll stick to trying new Black Bear Diners and driving to the nearby Bakersfield, Calif., diner.
It’s likely he’ll visit the new diner opening in Fremont, Calif., sometime in October or November.
Black Bear Diner recently implemented a new passport program encouraging people to eat at the different diners to receive different stamps to earn rewards.
Sequim’s diner at 1471 E. Washington St., is one of three in Washington with Federal Way and Olympia. Call 504-2950 or visit blackbeardiner.com.