Art collector leaves two New York waitresses $130,000

Maureen Donohue-Peters, a waitress at Donohue's Steak House, works in the restaurant in New York on May 14, 2014. Robert Ellsworth, an art collector and a regular to the restaurant who died at the age of 85 in August, left US$100,000 in his will
Maureen Donohue-Peters, a waitress at Donohue's Steak House, works in the restaurant in New York on May 14, 2014. Robert Ellsworth, an art collector and a regular to the restaurant who died at the age of 85 in August, left US$100,000 in his will for his favourite waitresses, Donohue-Peters and her niece, Maureen Barrie. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - A long-time patron at a New York steak house chalked up a surprising addition to his final tab: US$100,000 (S$130,000), given to his favourite waitress and her niece.

Maureen Donohue-Peters, 53, got a call from a lawyer after Asian art collector Robert Ellsworth passed away, informing that her "something" had been left to her in his will.

"I said 'Oh my God!'. I did not expect anything. He's a very generous man, he's always been good to everybody," Donohue-Peters said about Ellsworth, a patron at Donohue's Steak House for more than half a century.

Ellsworth left US$100,000 to be split between Donohue-Peters and her 28-year-old niece Maureen Barrie, who also works at the steakhouse.

Donohue's is an institution in Manhattan's affluent Upper East Side.

Its darkened dining room, wood-panelled walls and red tablecloths hearken back to an earlier era in traditional American dining, and the restaurant draws a loyal customer base.

"It's a big extended family," Donohue-Peters said.

Ellsworth was a renowned collector and seller of Asian art with a penchant for generosity.

He donated some US$22 million worth of Asian paintings to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1986, according to local media. The New York Post estimated he had a fortune of around US$200 million.

The art collector was a customer at the steak house from the beginning, he befriended Donohue-Peters' father after the restaurant opened in 1950, the waitress said.

After that, Ellsworth dined at the restaurant religiously, eventually becoming close to Donohue-Peters when she took over in 2000, waiting tables at the same time.

"He had always a smile in his face. He always got the same food, same drink," Donohue-Peters said.

"I would give anything to have him back. No amount of money can replace him," she said.