I try to impress on my children that everyone has something to teach us. You never know who is going to deliver your child's best lessons in life. Literally. My kids received their lessons in street safety and etiquette from our ice cream man, Joe Villardi.
Joe the Good Humor man was a fixture in our area. When you heard his bell ring in April, you knew it was spring, and Joe would be around until fall, typically at the same time each day. For us, that meant around 5:30, so he would often remind my children to save their ice cream until after they had dinner. Little things like that made Joe special.
You could tell he loved his job and he always watched out for the kids. He once told us a story about a man who came up to his truck one day. The man told Joe that when he was a boy, Joe once refused to sell him ice cream because he had crossed the street without looking. That lesson made a great impression on him.
Joe always made the kids say please. If they asked for ice cream without saying the magic word, Joe kept asking "What?" until they figured it out. He always did it in a light-hearted way, and any good parent appreciated his effort.
We last saw Joe's truck pass on Sunday. Sierra wanted ice cream. We tried to flag him down, but we were a little too late and missed him. Joe passed away that night at the age of 82. He was doing what he loved until the end. We knew him for over ten years that we lived in this house and had seen him at many events in the community. I will always regret I didn't try harder to reach the truck in time, to give us one last memory of Joe. He was a kind and gentle man. The kind of man you want to find behind the wheel of an ice cream truck.
I think Sierra said it best when she told me through her tears, "He was more than an ice cream man. He was a friend."