Could She Cope?
He was the glue that kept their entire family together. She didn’t know what to do without him around. Was she going to be okay? Would she learn how to cope with this? She was barely getting by as it was.
Three months felt like decades. But then she discovered the truth. She was now aware of how many people knew things about him that she never did.
He Was The Man Of Her Dreams
For 62-year-old New Jersey resident, Velvet Poveromo, meeting her husband Charlie had been like a fairytale. From a young age, the two were inseparable.
Handsome and kind, he had epitomized her ideal version of a partner. After so many blissful years together, she never expected things to end so suddenly.
They Built A Life Together
Velvet, a former paralegal, felt like the formative years of their relationship sometimes felt too good to be true. They had a bustling social life, attended many social functions together, and were well-liked among their friends.
She often felt blessed—at times believing her idyllic life would never end. She had no idea how wrong she was.
The Next Step
The couple’s early years together soon took a different route. From parties and vacations with friends, it was suddenly time to change priorities.
New events would represent a turning point in the Poveromos’ marriage. Having felt like a neverending honeymoon period, this was all set to drastically change.
A New Chapter
Starting a family was the logical next step. Everything Charlie had done before proved to Velvet that he was going to be a wonderful father.
A family now, Velvet and Charlie began a new chapter of happiness. The years flew by as wonderfully as they always had—but tragedy would strike when Velvet least expected it.
Everyone Knew Him
As a bartender at one of New Jersey’s trendiest restaurants, it seemed like everywhere they went, Charlie was well known.
With a charming, magnetic personality, he had always been the kind of person that people gravitated toward. Velvet would later discover just how much more there was to her husband than even she knew.
A Whole Other Person
As they grew older, Charlie seemed to dedicate a lot more time than usual hanging out at the roadside, with his cooler box.
He became something of an attraction in the neighborhood; people always flocking around Charlie and his “cooler box”. Seeming innocent enough, Velvet never concerned herself—until she discovered exactly what had been going on all those years.
It Happened So Suddenly
Velvet and Charlie were fast approaching retirement age as the March of 2018 ushered in a new spring. It started off as an ordinary day in the life that Velvet Poveromo had become accustomed to.
In the blink of an eye though, her enchanted life was completely shattered. Tragedy struck and it felt like her whole world had been destroyed.
He Was Gone
Suffering a sudden heart attack, Charlie tragically lost his life at the untimely age of 57. Velvet felt lost without him.
Initially becoming withdrawn after losing her husband of 37 years, Velvet soon found out just how many people knew and remembered him. She would soon find out exactly what they all really thought of him.
Charlie tragically suffered his heart attack at the restaurant he worked at – Grissini’s. He hadn’t been in the best health for a while now, yet he still insisted on going to work and staying at the restaurant until closing time that night.
The owner of the restaurant, Tony Del Gatto, had nothing but praise for his longtime employee. But things changed.
She Never Knew
Noticing that since Charlie’s death, there weren’t nearly as many people hanging around the neighborhood anymore, Velvet made some inquiries.
It seemed Charlie was more famous than Velvet ever imagined. She was about to find out the reason and was stunned to learn just how little she knew about his “cooler box” activities.
She Had To Do Something
It was a little strange and daunting at first. Having so many strangers discussing her husband in such intimate detail felt odd.
It would be hard but she had to take action. Finally knowing the truth, she realized she had to do something to ensure that Charlie’s reputation remained intact.
How It All Began
One scorching summer’s day, Charlie had noticed garbagemen struggling with the heat. Without hesitation, he ran inside, fetched a cooler box filled with ice drinks, and offered it to them.
He continued the tradition each year after. Soon, every mailman and garbage remover around knew “Charlie’s place”—where refreshing drinks and friendly conversation to ease a hard day could always be found.
Velvet knew now that she had to keep the tradition going. She filled up the old cooler box herself with iced drinks and left it outside.
Putting a note on the box, this time it also acted as a way of letting people know what had happened to Charlie. The response she received was overwhelming.
A Fine Man
“He was one of the finest gentlemen I had ever met,” Tony Del Gatto told a local news website.
“Everybody felt like an individual to him. He spoke directly to people; his eyes never wandered. There could be 20 or 30 people at the bar… but when a person spoke to him, they were the most important person in the room.” And Charlie’s popularity extended even further than that.
Loved By Customers
Charlie was so popular with his customers at the restaurant that his clients would call ahead of time to make sure he was on duty.
Charlie would also come in to work when he didn’t have to to perform odd jobs around the establishment. He was clearly dedicated to his job, but that wasn’t all.
Devoted To Velvet
At home, Charlie was absolutely dedicated to his wife, too. Velvet knew that her husband loved her with his whole heart.
It wasn’t just her, though – Charlie always went out of his way to show kindness to everyone he knew. “My Charlie loved me,” Velvet told TV station ABC11. “He loved other people.” How could she keep his legacy of kindness alive?
How Much He Did
It wasn’t until Charlie was gone that Velvet realized just how much he did for the people around him – she had taken him for granted.
He had always done the household chores, he always made breakfast for his grandson and got him ready for school. And, of course, there was business with the cooler.
Honoring Her Husband
The more Velvet learned about her husband’s acts of kindness, the more determined she became to honor him by continuing the cooler box tradition.
She stocked the cooler box up with ice as the temperatures began to soar and attached a note about her wonderful late husband and his tragic passing. What did it say?
The message Velvet attached to the cooler box read: “In case you were unaware – my husband Charlie passed away suddenly at age 57 on March 10. I will do my best to continue to provide bottled water.”
The widow also took a photo of the cooler box and her message and posted it to Facebook.
After Velvet affixed the note, she saw exactly how much impact it made on everyone who saw it.
One scorching hot day, the garbage truck that was making the rounds reached Velvet’s home. But, instead of just gathering up the trash and continuing on their way, the men saw the note and did something unexpected.
Recounting The Story
Velvet recounted what happened on Facebook. The men in the garbage truck came to the house, saw the cooler box and her note, and stopped the truck. Then, they all walked over to Velvet’s house, filing in a straight line to salute.
The approached Velvet, shook her hand, and expressed their heartfelt condolences for her loss. But that wasn’t all.
Velvet’s sister-in-law, Monica Pidhorecki, decided to set up her own cooler on her lawn in honor of Charlie.
“It’s given us a reason to smile. And it’s such a great way to honor him and keep his memory alive,” she told ABC11. Meanwhile, Velvet’s Facebook post and story was gaining some serious traction online.
More and more people saw Velvet’s Facebook post and shared it – but that wasn’t all that was happening. Inspired by Velvet’s heartbreaking story, people everywhere began to put out their own drink-filled coolers for the servicemen, too.
Eventually, “Charlie’s Coolers” were cropping up online and the movement had spread across 13 states!
A Movement Was Born
Doing her best to fill his shoes, Velvet began putting out the cooler box every summer too. Soon “Charlie’s place” was running again and Velvet learned how many people’s lives he had touched with his kind heart.
Hearing what Charlie meant to each person and how much they all missed him helped Velvet keep her husband’s spirit alive.
“Charlie’s Cooler Box”
Velvet Poveromo always knew she had met the man of her dreams in Charlie. Despite his death, his legacy lived on. Velvet even collected a community award in his honor.
Going public with the story, other people from New Jersey and even other States began following Charlie’s kind tradition too—aptly naming it, the “Charlie’s Cooler Box” movement.
Although Velvet didn’t ask for donations to keep the cooler stocked with drinks, money began pouring in anyway. The interest in the movement became so huge that donations started coming in from strangers who lived across America.
Even though Velvet never asked for money, she is grateful for all the support she’s received. But, surprisingly, this wasn’t the first time Charlie had made headlines.
Charlie had been involved in another story that made national headlines back in 2016. He and the other employees at Grissini had pooled in to buy a lottery ticket. When the lottery results came in, they thought they had been lucky enough to win the $900 million jackpot!
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case…
In an unlucky twist, it turned out that the restaurant’s numbers were out of date and the real winning numbers were different.
“We were a mess for 20 minutes, and bam! It was over,” Charlie had commented at the time to The Record. “It was like getting punched in the stomach, but it goes away real fast.”
Still, Charlie’s legacy lives on – in Velvet and the people who knew him, and even the people who didn’t.
“You know, I was married to Charlie for 37 years (and, although he’s not right here beside me, we are still and always will be married) and he’s been gone for 3 months now, yet he continues to amaze me and still has a way of bringing a smile to my face and joy to my life!!” Velvet wrote on Facebook.