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66 years, and he keeps coming back for more

Harry Truman was President, Jackie Robinson was a rookie with the Brooklyn Dodgers and then-Princess Elizabeth was a newlywed when Edgar George Fournier started eating his breakfast at Ray's Lunch in Manchester.

Edgar George Fournier has been complaining about the food at Belmont Hall Restaurant for 66 years -- and coming back for more the next day. So on Saturday, restaurant manager Jeannine Metivier threw him a party and many of his relatives and friends were invited. She presented him with a mug, a commemorative T-shirt and a gift certificate for $66 -- a dollar for each year he's been dining there. Shawne K. Wickham/Sunday News 

And he's been complaining about the food nearly every day since.

On Saturday morning, Jeannine Metivier, manager at what is now called Belmont Hall & Restaurant, surprised Fournier with a party to celebrate his 66 years of patronage. There were commemorative gifts and about two dozen relatives and friends on hand.

"I'm shocked," said Fournier, who turns 87 on Aug. 21. "I still can't get over it."

Fournier was working at Sealtest Ice Cream in Manchester back in 1947 when he started getting breakfast at Ray's. "I used to have two eggs, ham and toast. Burnt toast.

"I'm a chowhound, and this was the best restaurant in town," he recalled.

But that didn't stop him from grousing about the food, said Metivier, whose niece, Cathy Kuliga, owns the restaurant with her husband, Steve.

After an encounter with Fournier her first week on the job, Metivier said, "I almost quit waitressing."

Fournier is affectionately known as "the grouch" by Belmont Hall regulars, said his youngest daughter, Celia McKay of Goffstown."

He complains about his food every day - but he comes back."

It's all part of the fun.

"I used to get a kick out of it," Fournier said, eyes twinkling.

Fournier was amazed that four of his five children and even some of his 12 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren were at the restaurant Saturday. Some drove from Laconia and Keene.

"Somebody made a phone call," he said.

"It's called email today, Dad," McKay told him with a smile.

Metivier said she came up with the idea for the party when Fournier recently mentioned how long he's been coming to the restaurant, which has been in her family for three generations.

"What place has a customer for 66 years, five days a week?" she asked. "We said we gotta do something."

McKay said she was "thrilled" when she heard what the restaurant had planned. "It's not usual in this day and age to pay attention to something like that," she said.

"I know the restaurant meant a lot to my dad and my mom. It says something about the business that they would be appreciating him like that."

After he retired, Fournier used to have breakfast with his wife, Cecile. But since her death in early 2011, he comes by himself and usually finds a friend to eat with.

Most days, that friend is Chris Argeropoulos, who joined the party on Saturday.

Metivier gave Fournier some gifts from Belmont Hall, including a diner mug, a red T-shirt commemorating his "66 Years of Loyalty" and a gift certificate for $66 - one dollar for every year of patronage.