DES MOINES, Iowa -- When you walk into the Waveland Café, there is good chance the servers there will know you by name, and if they don't, it won't take them long to get to know you.
Henry Ellis was a regular at the café. Annie Stone grew up in the restaurant and now works there. She says she's known Ellis for as long as she can remember and he quickly became one of her most beloved customers.
"He would always get the special or egg sandwich with a half order of french fries," she smiled. "We’d have to give him extra napkins because he would always make a mess, but we loved it every time he came in."
A table setting is now in place at the counter where Ellis would sit on a daily basis, including a cup of coffee, sugar, and a picture of him smiling from ear to ear.
On Thursday, Ellis and three others died in the Eddy Apartment building fire. Investigators are calling it the deadliest fire in a decade, but have not yet determined a cause.
"Coming to work and knowing that he's never going to walk through that door again is really hard to know and to get through my head," says Stone, as she wipes away tears.
For those who didn't know Ellis, Stone says the tribute has prompted questions about who he was and has given her the opportunity to share memories about the man she called the "Gentle Giant."
The restaurant says it plans on making a permanent memorial and is collecting donations for funeral expenses. Employees say Ellis did not have any family.
The Waveland Café is located at 4708 University Avenue in Des Moines.