They would just not have it. There was no way the generations of families that Joseph Villardi served ice cream to for 66 years would standby and let the beloved Good Humor Man be forgotten.
And the loyal customers of the 82-year-old Pelham resident—who passed away on June 11 and was known to most as “Good Humor Joe”—have succeeded with their letter writing and phone call campaign, which was largely organized on the “We Love Joe the Good Humor Man” Facebook page. The City of White Plains, the Town of Greenburgh and Good Humor have all agreed to celebrate Villardi’s life in some way.
“This is all because of the kindness of the community,” said Villardi’s niece Kim Krycerick Herman. “It was all his patrons, all the families and generations he served. They are the ones that did this for him. Basically, from the Facebook page all his customers rallied together and hounded [the municipalities and Good Humor] them until something was done. They weren’t taking no for an answer.”
The White Plains Common Council chambers erupted into a roar of applause during Monday night’s council meeting when Mayor Tom Roach announced that Good Humor will be handing out free ice cream from a vintage ice cream truck in , which was a stop on Villardi’s route, on Wednesday Aug. 8 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., while supplies last, to honor Villardi—who is believed to be the longest serving Good Humor Man in the country.
“Joe Villardi embodied the spirit of the Good Humor brand in his unwavering commitment to bring smiles to families in the towns he served,” said Senior Brand Building Manager for Good Humor Mike Hurley. “ We are honored to bring the community together to celebrate ‘Good Humor Joe’ and his more than half a century of service to the Good Humor brand in a way that we think he would have liked, by sharing memories and enjoying some Good Humor ice cream.”
Roach said he has received emails from people all around the country since Villardi’s passing. The City of White Plains declared Monday, Aug. 6, 2012 as “Good Humor Joe Day,” and presented Villardi’s 89-year-old brother with a framed proclamation at the meeting.
“It’s an honor to receive this,” said an emotional Anthony “Tony” Villardi, at the meeting. “He really loved the City of White Plains.”
Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner said the Town will hold a ceremony that would place a plaque at Town Hall honoring Villardi, however the Town does not have the funds budgeted to pay for the plaque. Herman, who said she was dissapointed by this, is currently working on putting together a fundraising campaign to raise about $1,000 for the plaque.
"I was a big fan of Joe," said Feiner. "He inspired many people. Always made people smile. Was great to kids and their parents. Was a role model—a good humor man who always put people in good humor!"
Herman said that Anthony Villardi was truly touched to know how much his brother meant to the community, and that Villardi himself got to see just how much everyone cared for him after rumors lead his customers to erroneously believe that he passed away in March.
Though it was a terrible mistake, Herman said the false alarm gave Villardi a renewed drive to make it one more summer—as his truck and health were failing, and he was giving serious consideration to retirement.
Herman, whose father Edward Krycerick Sr. served in the Korean War with Villardi, said she has been overwhelmed with the love and support Villardi’s Facebook fans have shown Villardi's family’—with people sharing kind words, photos, poems and even delivering home cooked meals to Anthony Villardi.
“It is truly amazing,” said Herman. “In this world where everyone is thinking, ‘oh my gosh’—there is still love out there and people are still paying it forward. It makes you stand back and realize how wonderful the world can be.”
Herman and her husband, Thomas Herman, of Patterson are fixing up Villardi’s truck and hoping to have family members resume his route by the end of the summer. The truck will be a mobile memorial for Villardi—who always taught children respect and responsibility—with pictures and a guest book, which will be at Kittrell Park Wednesday for people to sign.
The truck will still don the “G.H. Joe” initials on the side, but may have “and Family” tacked onto it.
“We’re going to do it the best we can,” said Herman. “It’s a haul for us to come all the way down here to sell ice cream, but we’re willing to give it a shot because we knew how much he gave to the community and made everyone’s summer a little brighter.”
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