‘I wouldn’t trade her for anything’: Neighbors with 40-year age gap form endearing bond

Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 6:28 PM MST
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TAMPA, Fla. (WFTS) – Two neighbors in Tampa are showing it costs nothing to be kind to one another.

Willie Thurman is known by his neighbors as “Mr. Willie.” He’s a man who loves doing yard work, including working on his neighbor’s yard.

Earlier this year, Thurman took on neighbor Valerie Vivirito’s yard work. She lives across the street from him.

“His thing was ‘I am going to help you,’” she said. “It’s a nice balance. I wouldn’t want any other neighbor.”

The 81-year-old Thurman asked his new neighbor, who is 40 years his junior, if he could help by starting with her lawn.

As a first-time home buyer, Vivirito said there was a lot she wasn’t expecting, including a neighbor like Thurman.

What began as a simple greeting for the two turned into a “thank you” card for being a good neighbor.

“I knew she was new, and I wanted to make her feel welcome. ‘I said welcome to the neighborhood,’ and from that it’s history,” Thurman said.

And the unexpected yard work became a snowball of kindness.

Thurman said he never expected the two would connect in the way they had.

“I just know that people who know me would like me,” he said. “Anyone who doesn’t like me doesn’t know me because I don’t have time to dislike. Life is too short.”

Thurman said he doesn’t have much family nearby, and Vivirito is starting fresh in a new city from New York.

Their morning greetings now include daily check-ins, weekly meals, and baked treats. More importantly, for Thurman, it’s a new sense of belonging.

“This has added some years of happiness to my life,” Thurman said. “I’m just here and look forward to a ‘Good Morning, Mr. Willie.’ I wouldn’t trade her for anything.”