Neighbours raise money for heartbroken ice cream man after he loses his wife and son "within days"
Customers of a heartbroken ice cream man who lost his wife and son within days of one another have raised money to help him.
Vittorio di Mascio, the West Leeds ice cream seller known as 'Mr Rossi', returned to work last week after his double bereavement.
Described as a "legend", the merchant is a bit of an institution in Pudsey and surrounding areas, where he is well-known for his smiley manner.
But after hearing his story as he returned from a brief hiatus, resident Rachel Harding said she was "heartbroken", and is helping give something back to the man who has served the town with ice creams for nearly five decades.
A Crowdfunder has been set up to raise £500 for Vittorio, while parents are being encouraged to get their children to draw pictures for inside his truck after he took them down due to his sadness.
"He just looks so sad right now", said Rachel, who is a childminder. "Empty and lost but is desperately trying to carry on. His wife and son both died very suddenly.
"Mr Rossi was crying and there was little I could say to console him.
"He's not been on his rounds for a good few months but nobody knew why until he came back this last week."
Vittorio's ice cream van reportedly dates back to 1972 - meaning it has been in service for nearly 50 years.
"He's a legend in the local area with the loveliest of souls" -- Rachel Harding
Rachel added: "I'm overwhelmed but equally not surprised by the level of support for him. He's a legend in the local area, with the loveliest of souls and the best ice cream going.
"He was full of life, engages with the children, had his van covered in pictures the children had made him and many have known him 30 years plus and he's now serving ice cream to their children!"
A relative of Vittorio told the Yorkshire Evening Post he was aware of the Crowdfunder appeal, and was bowled over by the news.
You can donate to the Crowdfunder here.