Wardell “Poppy” Pennington has spent most of his life preparing the best cheeseburger for miles around.

Wardell “Poppy” Pennington has spent most of his life preparing the best cheeseburger for miles around.
The 88-year-old World War II veteran says the secret to the juicy, delicious burgers is rather simple.
“I have always used fresh-ground beef, and I have never cooked a frozen patty in my life,”  Pennington said.
A slab of Velveeta cheese is another key to the popularity of the tasty burgers, and fresh potatoes and onions are peeled each day.
Pennington first started cooking for people 65 years ago, after returning to Newport at the end of the war in 1945.
“I flew 65 combat missions over Europe in a B-25,”  Pennington said.  “After I got back home, I got married and started working at a restaurant with my brother-in-law.”
He served as an engineer and top-turret gunner, but said the enemy aircraft were intimidated by the guns on the B-25.
“The other planes wouldn’t attack us because we had a lot of firepower,”  Pennington said.  “I never did shoot down another plane.”Pennington married Dorothy Collier, his high school sweetheart, and the couple had three children.  The couple had a daughter, Betty Lou, and twin sons, John and Bruce.
“My wife and I were married for almost 56 years,”  Pennington said.  “Our first grandchild, Lindsey, called us Money and Poppy, and that’s where we got the name from.”
Pennington also has four grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
He has retired a total of three times, but a love for his customers and the willingness to help others keeps drawing him back to the burger business.  The grill was recently purchased by one of Pennington’s longtime employees and is now known as M & C’s.
“Their cook walked out on them about a month ago, and I have been back here ever since,”  Pennington said.
The name might be different , but the quality of both food and service remains the same as before.
Meeting and serving countless customers in another aspect Pennington treasures about working in a restaurant.
“I am proud to have fed about five or six generations of people,”  Pennington said.  “I have enjoyed meeting all the people I have while I was here, and there have been a lot of them since I started so long ago.”
One of Pennington’s most loyal customers, Bobby Massey, says Pennington’s personality and the food are the main reasons he comes back on a regular basis.
“I have been coming here since 1948 because he is always fun to be around,”  Massey said.  “I never have to worry if the food will be good or not.”
The area’s best burger can be found inside the Village Mall on Malcolm Avenue in Newport.