World War II veteran Dan Rankin, 95, shares a laugh...

World War II veteran Dan Rankin, 95, shares a laugh with Maria Baker, manager of Dueling Irons restaurant in Post Falls, Idaho, in May. Customers regularly pay for his breakfast.  Credit: The Spokesman-Review / TNS / Kathy Plonka

Dan Rankin, 95, shows up each morning at the Dueling Irons Restaurant in Post Falls, Idaho, to get his usual — sausage, hash browns, eggs over easy and sourdough toast.

Rankin, a World War II veteran, became a fixture at the eatery soon after it opened in 2014. For the past three years or so, other patrons have been regularly paying for his meal to thank him for his service. In April, his story went viral, including a short story in People magazine recently.

All that buzz has built up a waiting list of people wanting to pay his tab, including callers nationwide. A recent tally shows, Rankin had $210 credited toward his daily $9.76 bill. The attention is a bit much for Rankin, a tank maintenance worker in the war, who talked before his meal on May 10.

“It scares me,” Rankin said with a bit of a smile. “I’m no celebrity. I didn’t do anything special. Somebody started it. I don’t know who or how.

“I didn’t do anything outstanding, I don’t think, other than serving my country.”

He said the restaurant’s workers know his meal request every day, while joking that occasionally he’ll order ham instead. “I switch it off once in a while.”

And if someone asks, Rankin is glad to share about his military time.

Born and raised in Newport, Washington, Rankin said he served in the 13th Armored Division of the U.S. Army that joined up with Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army after the invasion of Normandy. Members pushed across France in a rapid armored drive.

Rankin did tank maintenance and repairs of those after battles.

“I tried to repair them after the Germans got through shooting them up,” Rankin said.

After the war, he said he lived in California for about 20 years and worked as a mechanic. Rankin said he’s lived in Post Falls since the 1970s.

Although he was married a couple of times, Rankin said his only relatives remaining today are nephews from his brother’s family.

Today, he uses a walker, but he drives himself to the restaurant. Workers at Dueling Irons say Rankin has a little dog, and he likes to take scraps home to him.

At the restaurant, he can be found sitting at a booth usually by himself as he gazes out the window. He looks up with a smile as regulars and newcomers alike walk by and shake his hand.

Many say, “Thank you for your service.”

Waitresses regularly visit with him, too.

“He comes in every day; I just love him,” server Sami Willhelm said. “He’s very special to everyone’s heart here. He is family now.”

She said a Houston radio station recently contacted the restaurant to do a story on Rankin, and other calls have come from as far as New York and Australia with people offering to pay for the veteran’s meals.

“He’s become quite the famous man,” she said. “A lady drove from Montana just to eat here and pay for his breakfast like a week ago.”

For more stories about retirement, visit newsday.com/Act2.

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