Obama swept off his feet, literally, during stop at Fort Pierce pizza shopby George Bennett | September 9th, 2012
President Barack Obama, right, is picked-up and lifted off the ground by Scott Van Duzer, left, owner of Big Apple Pizza and Pasta Italian Restaurant during an unannounced stop in Ft. Pierce. (The Associated Press)
FORT PIERCE — Restaurant owner Scott Van Duzer was so excited about President Obama visiting his establishment this afternoon that he grabbed the president in a bear hug and lifted him off his feet at the Big Apple Pizza and Pasta restaurant.
The presidential motorcade stopped by the restaurant around 3 p.m. after driving from Melbourne through Vero Beach and down U.S. Route 1 to Fort Pierce.
Obama bounded into the restaurant and chatted with the 46-year-old Van Duzer, before the restaurant owner, who said he’s 6’3″ and 260 pounds, embraced and picked up the president.
“Are you a power lifter or what?” Obama said.
Van Duzer, fresh off the golf driving range in gray athletic shorts and a gray T-shirt, showed Obama some awards on his wall before the president addressed reporters briefly.
“One of the reasons we wanted to stop by is Scott has been doing unbelievable work out of this pizza shop in promoting the importance of donating blood,” Obama said.
“He has set some records here in Florida, he has received commendations from the White House, our surgeon general. He has galvanized and mobilized the local community and he’s educated kids and folks all across the country on this issue. And so this is an example of somebody who’s doing well, but he’s also giving back and so we just want to say how proud we are of him.
“I’m still wondering how he got these biceps but what we know is that the guy’s got a big heart along with big pecs,” Obama said.
Port St. Lucie resident Van Duzer said he didn’t know about the president’s visit until he got a call from his manager about 40 minutes before the motorcade arrived.
“I got goosebumps, so excited and just overwhelmed…just overwhelmed when I saw him, blown away,” said Van Duzer, who said he’s a Republican but supported Obama in 2008 and will vote for him again this year.
“I believe he’s passionate as I am, I’m a very passionate person and just to see his enthusiasm…that’s what it’s about,” Van Duzer said.
Van Duzer said he has been organizing blood drives for about four years. While he spoke to reporters, the president visited some of the dozen or so customers and posed for at least one picture with a group of young men.