Update: 4/17/15 – Happy Birthday, Bacco! This local hero is “29” Today!!
It is amazing the kind, generous quiet heroes that surround us every day. When you have time, stop and take a moment to ask questions and learn about someone you see everyday but may not even know their name. And appreciate them – not everyone does. In fact, some people find the generous and take advantage of them. Read on to learn how that happened to Roberto (“Bacco”), and what we’re doing to help.
Roberto works at a Publix serving samples of meal ideas and smiles. He loves talking to people and is always jolly; his voice is immediately uplifting and comforting. Having said hello to him daily for years, i decided one day when he was not busy to pause for a conversation. I was amazed.
He works at this Publix because this plaza is “home”. For many years, he owned and managed a family restaurant here, Bacco Italiano Ristorante. It won local and national awards from Zagat, Florida Trend, and Entertainment, and received positive reviews from Scott Joseph and Greg Pikulski. He was beloved by his customers and renowned both for his friendly demeanor and his amazing talent as a chef.
Soon after settling in, Roberto became a hero to local cats. He personally cares for the cats in the plaza parking lot and at his home – these cats have been part of his family for many years. He feeds them, conducts TNR (trap-neuter-release), and provides them care. He loves them, and buries them when they pass. When needed, he cares for their young and finds homes for them when he can.
When he came to this country in 1988 he saw the cats as a social issue of injustice toward fellow beings, and wondered why people did not take care of these animals. He thought someone should do something – so he decided to do something, and continues his mission to this day. I don’t know if he heard Lily Tomlin’s quote*, but he lives its spirit. The cats are there because of our carelessness – we created this community of animals that need attention. He worries that he does not do enough, but he gives what he can. He funds and conducts this rescue mission himself. He saw a need for compassion and intervention, and so he works to fill that need.
In his retirement, he says, he wants to live in peace with his cats and his garden.
He lives in a small home where he has rooms that he rents out. For a long time, he rented to two young college students who became like family to him. When they graduated and moved away, he decided to look for another roommate. Unfortunately, bad things do happen to good people – and one day last month while Roberto was at work, the new roommate not only stole everything – including the refrigerator – but also injured one of the cats.
Crushed (and very angry that someone hurt a cat), and despite the police doing their best, the individual has not been caught. With a deductible higher than the loss, replacement of the belongings is not feasible. He will slowly rebuild and continues to love and care for his cats and his garden. He has not lost his sense of peace. Even through this difficulty, his positive attitude and uplifting spirit have carried on.
He is right – there are so many animals that are abandoned, neglected, or abused because we humans do not care for them the way we should. We create out-of-control populations of unwanted animals and think that someone should do something. There are a few real heroes out there dedicating their lives to making a difference. They make the world a better place because they are in it and because their love and sense of duty guide them on their path. People who shine brightly and inspire others with their dedication to what they love. Roberto is one of those, and though he has only briefly and peripherally touched my life, he has made a lasting impression that inspires and gives hope.
Thank you, Roberto. You are one of the quiet heroes living in our midst, and we are grateful for the joy you bring to people and work you do for your feline friends.
*“I said “Somebody should do something about that. Then I realized, I am somebody.”