I am sharing this story in hopes that it encourages you to think about what your legacy will look like. Will it be a legacy of kindness, like this gentleman? He touched thousands of people in his local community, without even realizing it. Simply by “disconnecting” and staying present when he walked the town. He was friendly, welcoming and always very kind.
And he will truly be missed. Here is his story:
THE RIDGEFIELD WALKER
Michael Nardone Jr. remembers when his dad, Michael Nardone, first moved to Ridgefield in the spring of 1997.
A widower from Weston who had run his own consulting company since 1973, the senior Nardone instantly grew enchanted with his new community and began walking the town’s beautiful, idyllic streets, where he’d meet its generous residents — folks he greeted with a warm smile and welcome into his life as if they were part of his family.
“He walked every single day he lived in that town — 12 months, 365 days a year, for four to five hours a day. It didn’t matter if it was raining or if it was snowing,” Michael Nardone Jr. recalled last week about the man many here in town know as “the Ridgefield Walker.”
“He started on those big walks from almost day one, and they really changed him,” his son added. “Before he came to town, my father lived in a very white world. But in Ridgefield, he became friends with everyone, even the dishwashers and cooks who worked in town. He got to know their schedules and when they went on break, and he would speak to them in the back of the restaurants they worked at.
“He never did that stuff before he moved to town, so he clearly evolved as a person and found a lot of happiness through those interactions.”
Michael Nardone’s “walking journey” — the one that spanned two decades and more than tens of thousands of miles in Ridgefield — ended in this past June when was diagnosed with stage three multiple myeloma, a form of cancer in which abnormal plasma cells build up in the bone marrow and form tumors in many bones of the body.
“He fell in the first week of June and that snowballed into a series of doctor’s visits and trips to the hospitals,” his son told The Press last week.
“He’s recently become very ill and has maybe a few weeks left to live, but wanted to thank everyone who has written him over the last several months.”
‘Bundles of cards’
It didn’t take long for residents to notice Nardone’s warm presence missing on Main Street this summer.
They began writing cards to the 87-year-old man whom they had come to know over the years, wishing him well and thanking him for all the support and friendliness he displayed with such ease.
“We would visit his home, to pick up his mail, and there they were — a few at first, then stacks, then bundles of cards, personally delivered. The cards just kept coming,” Nardone Jr. wrote in a thank-you letter to the community last week. “If people didn’t know where my father lived, they dropped a card at St. Mary’s Parish. If they knew someone who knew my father, they handed the cards to them.”
Nardone’s son said he and his three siblings — Greg, Keith and Beth — have “been humbled by this genuine act of community caring and kindness.”
“It’s helped us better understand that you can truly impact someone’s life just by being ‘present’ and actively listening, as you go about your day,” he said. “Imagine if my father walked with headphones, listening to music. He might have missed these beautiful connections. But he didn’t, he never would have.
“He’s lived his whole life being absolutely present and engaged with his family — through thick and thin — so, of course, he’d do the same for the Ridgefield community that he so loves and that has loved him back.”
“I want to personally thank you, on behalf of my father. Please know that he has read every card and note, and he is so thankful for each and every sentiment of support and encouragement. If he was able, he would have responded to all of you. Please accept this note as his personal thank you.”
Nardone Jr. said his dad wanted to remind everyone in Ridgefield to stay connected to the community, keep moving forward, and remain positive in attitude, “regardless of what life throws at you.”
“He just wants to thank the town because he’s going to pass really soon,” Nardone Jr. said.
“It’s humbling to see how kind a community can be,” he added. “You forget that sometimes, but there’s no doubt about it — this is a very special place and it changed my dad forever.”
Editor’s note: Michael Nardone died on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 23, 2017) with his family by his side. The Ridgefield community has planned a “Walk for Mike” that will start in front of the RVNA building on Governor Street Sunday, Dec. 3, at 9 a.m.
R.I.P. Mike. We will all miss you. Thank you for teaching us about kindness.
You can read the original article in its entirety here.*
*Published by the Ridgefield Press on 11/28/17.