Strangers are bringing joy to an elderly grandfather with dementia by sending Valentine's Day cards to the senior center where he lives.
Jim Gaboardi, 89, is a former mailman who served in Danbury, Connecticut, for 45 years. Gaboardi has received 80 handmade cards and counting after his eldest granddaughter, Meghan Henriques-Parker, originally asked her Facebook friends to mail him Christmas cards on Dec. 14.
"He looks up to me and said, 'Sure been a long time since I got any mail,'" Henriques-Parker, 36, told ABC News. "I felt absolutely horrific, so I put it on Facebook and I just wrote 'Hey guys, do me a favor if you have time, or an extra stamp, pictures, just send it over.'"
Within two days, the cards started arriving by the dozens to Gaboardi's home at the Maplewood at Stony Hill senior center.
Gaboardi was diagnosed with dementia five years ago, but the disease progressed over the past year, Henriques-Parker said.
The father of three and grandfather of eight was married to the late Dorothy Gaboardi and served in WWII.
"He's my whole life," Henriques-Parker said. "He and my grandma went out to dinner every single night. They were just a riot...they went around town, they knew everybody, they knew the mayor."
"I love everything about him," she added. "He did the best Donald Duck impression. He loved to swim, so he'd get in the pool and make whirlpools with me. He loves ice cream. That was his biggest thing. He'd tell you your ice cream cone would be dripping and then he'd eat half of it."
Just before Christmas, Henriques-Parker said her grandfather's dementia was taking a toll on him and he had stopped eating.
To help lift his spirits, she asked her Facebook friends to send holiday cards to the senior center.
"We didn't think make it to Christmas," Henriques-Parker said. "Then the cards starting coming and his personality started coming back and he started eating again."
Gaboardi received over 350 cards from across the nation after the Facebook post was shared over 100 times. Now, the Valentine's Day greetings are rolling in. A teacher in Arizona who is friends with Henriques-Parker had her third-grade students make cards for Gaboardi as a Valentine's Day project.
Amy Silva-Magalhaes of Maplewood at Stony Hill told ABC News, “Many of our residents and families know Jim from years past when he carried the mail for the U.S. Post Office, always socializing with them and their children, delivering mail – by hand - to those who were disabled. Jim is naturally kind, full of happiness, humor and polite words. We are all so fortunate to have Jim around us all each and every day."
Henriques-Parker thanks everyone who thought of her grandfather and hopes it inspires others to make a card for someone with dementia, she said.
If you'd like to send a greeting card to Jim Gaboardi, here is the address: Jim Gaboardi Maplewood at Stony Hill 46 Stony Hill Rd., Bethel, CT 06801