Derlin Newey, 89, had been praying for God to let him prosper. But he wasn’t expecting the surprise answer to come hidden in a pizza box filled with a different kind of dough.
Newey, who lives in the Roy area of Utah, has supplemented his Social Security income for a little over a year by delivering food for Papa John’s Pizza.
When Newey delivered a large pineapple pizza to Gladys Valdez a few weeks ago with a smile and struck up a conversation — saying “Hi, gorgeous!” — Valdez was completely charmed. Usually, she said, delivery men just said hello and hand her a receipt.
“He was just so friendly, really talkative, and just super sweet and genuine,” said Valdez, 32, an artist who makes eyelash extensions and T-shirt designs.
She told her husband Carlos Valdez, 34, about the kind deliveryman, and even showed him the doorbell camera footage. In the video, Newey tells her that he had driven by her house countless times over the decades on his way to his nearby church.
“He takes the time to tell you a little bit about himself and get to know you,” said Carlos Valdez, who manages Rooster’s Brewing Co. in Ogden, Utah. “I don’t know any pizza deliveryman who takes the time to do that.”
Carlos Valdez was so taken with Newey’s friendliness and earnestness — and the fact that he was delivering pizza at his age — that he posted the doorbell camera footage on TikTok.
His followers loved Newey. They left tens of thousands of “hearts” and comments including “Oh my gosh my heart just melted” and “OMG I love him and want to give him a giant hug.”
The Valdez family ordered pizza a few more times and requested Newey as the delivery guy. They posted two more doorbell videos, including one that got more than two-and-a-half-million views.
Newey, who had never seen TikTok before, was becoming one of its stars.
Carlos Valdez wanted to do something nice for Newey. He was, after all, 89 years old and delivering pizza door to door.
Valdez decided to crowdfund on Newey’s behalf via a Venmo link on his TikTok page, and within 24 hours, he had raised more than $1,000. Donations ranged from a mere penny — you can actually donate just a cent on Venmo — to $500. Thousands of people gave small amounts of a dollar or less. It all added up to more than $12,000.
Then came the surprise delivery. Carlos Valdez did it by flipping the script on Newey.
First, he called Papa John’s and asked for the restaurant’s cheapest menu item — chicken wings for about $10 — and requested that Newey be the one to deliver it. When Newey came, Carlos Valdez gave him a $20 tip, and told him that the internet had fallen head over heels for him, and the community had a surprise for him. Newey gave him his contact information, so that Valdez could deliver the surprise to him.
They agreed to meet on Sept. 22 at Newey’s mobile home, where he was expecting something like a T-shirt, Valdez said. Instead, when Newey opened the door to his mobile home, Valdez was standing there holding an empty pizza box, which he had stuffed with an envelope full of all the cash — $12,069.71.
Newey was flabbergasted, and his eyes filled with tears.
In a now-viral TikTok video, a shellshocked Newey cries with joy: “How do I ever say thank you? I don’t know what to say!”
As a bonus, Newey did get a T-shirt that Gladys Valdez designed for him. It shows a caricature of him and his signature phrase: “Hellooo, are you looking for some pizza?” A sticker of that same image was on the surprise pizza box.
Since the initial fundraiser that raised $12,000, people have donated another $8,000 for Newey. Carlos Valdez has cut it off and says he will transfer the money to Newey. But Valdez set up a new Venmo account where he is no longer the middle man and donations will go directly to Newey, he said.
Several days after the cash delivery, Newey reflected on his good fortune.
“It’s beautiful,” Newey told The Washington Post. “I mean, who makes that kind of tip?”
Newey typically works about 30 hours a week, Mondays through Saturdays delivering pizza. He got the job 14 months ago when his Social Security income wasn’t enough to cover his living expenses, which included his used 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLK. With his new windfall, Newey paid off the roughly $3,000 he owed on his car, as well as some other debts he had.
Newey, a retired salesman, is a native of Utah’s Ogden area. He worked as a cookware salesman in the 1950s in the D.C. area, where he lived in apartments in Arlington, Falls Church and Alexandria, Va. He then spent 26 years living in Gridley, Calif., and working for National Merchandising, and he earned both a bachelor’s degree and MBA from Brigham Young University.
Newey — who is divorced and has five daughters and two sons — spent time overseas as a Mormon missionary in China and Africa. As a boy, Newey was a competitive skier, and he later taught skiing; about four years ago, he gave up skiing because it became too difficult physically.
Now, in his delivery job, Newey enjoys engaging with customers and cracking jokes. He drops off pizzas in his Mercedes-Benz, while wearing his Papa John’s shirt and hat.
“I tip my hat to the people,” Newey said. “And I say, ‘Hey, there’s a silver-haired chauffeur in a black limousine delivering pizza to you!’ “
He explained: “I’m trying to make the people feel good, and I love conversation.”
Valdez said his TikTok followers can’t get enough of Newey. He deserves the attention and gift, said Valdez, who hopes that Newey’s story inspires people to spread kindness to others.
Some people following Newey’s story have commented on social media that at his age, Newey shouldn’t have to work; others have said the situation is an indictment of America’s economic system that doesn’t take care of its seniors. Newey said he didn’t agree with those sentiments.
If Newey didn’t need the extra income, he said, he would still work his delivery job because he loves it.
“Oh man, fabulous,” he said about his job. “I love the people I’m working with and I love going to the people’s houses, being useful, and having a pleasant conversation and making friends with people.
“The beautiful children — you should see the smile on their faces when they say, ‘Oh, we’re going to have pizza tonight!’” he said. “That’s worth more than the money I make.”