JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) – Victor Colella wears his heart on his sleeve.
The 96-year-old has been afforded the golden opportunity that comes with being a nonagenarian: the freedom to be wholeheartedly and unabashedly authentic.
It was only fitting that on a drive around his Johnston neighborhood Wednesday, Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” started playing on his car radio. Colella’s fingertips seized the volume nob and cranked up the sound so Ol’ Blue Eyes’ voice boomed inside the cab of his sedan.
“I sing along sometimes,” Colella said.
Born in 1923, Colella now leads what he describes as a simple life. He makes trips to the bakery for fresh bread, dines at a familiar restaurant each week, listens to his favorite music (Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald are held in particularly high esteem) and follows his beloved Yankees.
He cooks and cleans, too, and makes sure his home is spic and span. When he has to leave the comfort of the modest house his family built, he plans it carefully, driving short distances and only after 10 a.m. when traffic has decreased.
One of his regular routines includes taking his son, Richard, 64, to bimonthly blood tests to monitor the cancer he’s been fighting. Richard uses two canes to walk, and moves slowly and deliberately.
“I feel hurt,” Victor said through tears during a recent interview with Eyewitness News. “I feel sorry for him.”
The elder Colella doesn’t hide his emotion. It’s likely why his recent appearance before Providence Municipal Court Judge Frank Caprio became a viral sensation after it aired on Caprio’s syndicated television show, “Caught in Providence.”
Colella ended up in court after one of those trips with Richard. Navigating the back roads of Providence, Colella triggered a school zone speed camera. He was going five to six miles an hour over the posted limit of 25. He got a citation in the mail.
“I read the darn thing and I said, ‘What the heck is this?’ It said, ‘You were speeding 30 miles an hour in a restricted zone,'” Colella said. “When I read the bottom and it said $75, I said, ‘$75? I’m not going to pay that! I’m going to court and I’m going to object to it.'”
On the day of his hearing, Colella waited for 45 minutes for Caprio to call his name. Then he plead his case.
“I don’t drive that fast, judge,” he said. “I’m 96 years old and I drive slowly, and I only drive when I have to. I was going to the blood work for my boy. He’s handicapped.”
Caprio asked, “You were taking your son to the doctor’s office?”
“I take him for blood work every two weeks because he’s got cancer,” Colella said, and then paused. He sat stooped, holding a microphone that he didn’t know was being used for the television show. His lip trembled.
Caprio, touched, tossed out the ticket.
“I wish you all the best,” the judge said. “I wish the best for your son. And I wish you good health and your case is dismissed. Good luck to you and God bless you.”
Colella went home and thought about nothing more than his good fortune — until his neighbor asked for his autograph.
“He said, ‘You’re a celebrity!’ I said, ‘What do you mean I’m a celebrity?’ He said, ‘Could I have your autograph?’ I thought he was busting me!” Colella recalled with a smile.
Then Colella’s phone started ringing. Family and friends had seen him on television or online, where the video was being viewed and shared by millions of people across the globe.
His story about caring for his sick son, even at his advanced age, pulled at the heart strings of strangers near and far. For Colella, the passage of time doesn’t mean a father stops taking care of his children.
“They took care of me,” he said, wiping away tears. “One hand washes the other.”