The pain of losing a loved one can feel unbearable. She was simply beside herself with grief, and there wasn’t a single day that went by that she didn’t miss him more and more. But she knew that the best way to keep his memory alive was to commemorate the man he was. So, she put up a sign that told people her husband was no longer alive. But she never expected people to react the way they did.
Velvet and Charlie Poveromo had been married for over forty years. They were madly in love too. But then, one day, Charlie suffered a heart attack. He had been her pillar, and now he was gone forever. She found herself all alone but decided to do something about that. She didn’t want his memory to fade away. So, she came up with what she assumed would be the perfect solution. But she couldn’t foresee how much this would affect her future.
Charlie was loved by everyone in the community. He worked as a bartender at a local establishment called Grissini. He had worked there for over 20 years and had won over everyone in New Milford, Connecticut, where he and Velvet lived. But she realized that her life was meaningless without him. Then, one day, it dawned on her, and she knew what had to be done.
Charlie was a devoted husband and an excellent employee. In fact, clients would call the restaurant to make sure he was working that night. If he wasn’t, they wouldn’t come. But he didn’t just work at the bar. He was a Jack of all Trades and lent a hand to whoever needed it. He would even come in on his days off to cover someone’s shift. But as a husband, he was awesome! “My Charlie loved me,” Velvet told ABC11. “He loved other people.” Velvet was a proud wife, but she didn’t realize how much her husband had touched the lives of everyone in the community.
One day, Charlie went to work. Things got hectic that night, and he had to do some overtime at Grissini Ristorante to ensure every customer was served. Sadly, he never made it home. Then Velvet got the phone call that every wife feared. It destroyed her. But a part of her was confused. He was only 57 years old. Why did this have to happen now to the love of her life?
Velvet had to find a way to say goodbye and then figure out how to live without him. She was still trying to fill the hole in her heart, which is how she came up with a brilliant idea. Charlie had passed away so suddenly from his heart attack, and Velvet wasn’t the only one he left behind. It was the entire community, who adored him, and they were grieving too. They had no idea that Velvet had found a way to keep the memory of her late husband alive and kicking.
Tony Del Gatto was devastated after Charlie passed away. He was the owner of the restaurant where Charlie had worked for so long. But more importantly, the two men were friends. “He was one of the finest gentlemen I had ever met,” Del Gatto shared. “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.”
It was 2010, and a scorching heatwave had hit New Milford, Connecticut. For more than four days, the heat had gone above 100 degrees. The heatwave had caused another issue. The area was experiencing a drought. So, one day, Charlie decided to take action against something that had left him deeply disturbed. Eight years later, another heatwave struck the area, and this made Velvet recall Charlie’s random act of kindness.
During the heatwave, Charlie had provided cool drinks for public workers. This made him unforgettable among the community. Everyone came to rely on the fact that Charlie’s cooler was there to cool them down if they needed it. But then, it was gone. Velvet knew how important that cooler was to her husband. So, she found a way to keep his memory alive by doing exactly what her husband had done. She never realized that the gesture would move so many.
She brought Charlie’s cooler out. It was filled with snacks and beverages. And she also posted a sign letting everyone know about Charlie’s passing. She decided to keep her husband’s tradition alive, but it was only a matter of time before she discovered how people really felt about Charlie.
With her friends’ help, Velvet shared what she had done on social media. Soon, the kind movement made the summer feel a bit cooler. “I wanted to pay tribute to him and honor him because he gave back so much to this community and I want to give back to him,” she shared. “He is my heart,” Velvet told CBS.
What Velvet did was felt immediately by the community. When a garbage truck made its rounds through the neighborhood, they knew that the Poveromo house had cool drinks and snacks. But when they read the sign, they all walked out of the truck, stood in a straight line, and saluted Velvet. Then, they shook her hand, thanked her for generosity, and offered their condolences.
Velvet’s sister-in-law, Monica, was so moved by her action that she put a cooler out too so she could pay tribute to Charlie’s kind heart and incredible deed. “It’s given us a reason to smile. And it’s such a great way to honor [Charlie] and keep his memory alive,” she told ABC11, adding, “It’s been tough since we lost him, and this gives me a reason to smile because he was a great guy.”
This act became contagious. Soon, over 13 states implemented the same act using #CharliesCooler as a hashtag. Even countries like Japan did the same. And while Velvet never asked for donations, she did receive several anonymous contributions so she could continue buying stuff to stock the cooler and keep her husband’s legacy alive.
It’s taken on a life of its own,” she said. “Every person who does it, it’s a tribute to him.” Velvet added regarding her touching tribute in an online interview. Without realizing it, she not only managed to heal herself, but she was able to feel closer to her husband by taking on his cause.
Velvet needed more than the movement to help mend her broken heart. Fortunately, she found it, and it has four legs. On her Facebook page, she shared that she now has a new cat named Charlie. So, it seems as though she’s destined to have a Charlie in her life no matter what!