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There is a Christian stream underlying this story; but if you read and listen carefully, it’s really all about love, faith and care for our fellow humans – and I think we can all agree that Christians haven’t cornered the market in any of these. these things. As one of my relatives often professes: “We all climb the same mountain, but from different sides. “

I was minding my own business, happily writing hard-hitting journalistic essays on the virtues of the scrapple, the great Taylor ham / pok roll debate and other Jersey-centric wonders, when a voice came to me. By telephone.

“Finally! I found you!” It was Mario Morandi, a determined and cherished 91-year-old former insurance salesman; and he had done an admirable amount of digging to find me. He wanted me – of all people – to write and share his story. How cute, I thought to myself. Then he started to tell his story, and I knew I had been granted a privilege. So I better share.

“I used to sell insurance, but now I’m a seller for the Lord,” Morandi proclaimed.

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Mario Morandi with his wife Reba. Photo courtesy of Susan Kronberg

Since 2001, Morandi has sowed faith and brotherhood to everyone he meets – over 20,000 over the past two decades, respectfully asking, “Do you believe in Jesus? before offering a small cross and verse pouch, a key ring, a pin, a bracelet or a handmade magnet.

” I am a salesman ; these are my samples, ”he joked. But for those who receive, smiles often melt into tears of gratitude, as Morandi has a knack for putting his gifts in the palms of people who need an extra handful of grace in their lives. Cashiers, waiters, nurses, parking lot attendants – anyone he meets, sometimes 15 or 20 random encounters a week – all walk away with an unexpected dose of something divine: comfort.

Morandi purchased all the gifts, as well as the pamphlet full of uplifting anecdotes he published, using funds from his own personal budget. He’s retired and on Social Security, but “I’ve been blessed,” he said. “Fortunate.”

Morandi shares his brochure full of uplifting anecdotes with everyone he meets. Photo courtesy of Susan Kronberg

Indeed, Morandi had all his life; and although he has undergone open heart surgery, a pacemaker, five stents and two false knees, his penchant for avoiding tragedy is simply miraculous, starting with military conscription and the Korean conflict. A commander gave him the choice: “Do you want to fight at the front or do you want to cook?”

“How do you like your eggs, sir?” Was the wise and witty response of young Morandi.

After the war, Morandi landed a job with Prudential in Newark, launching a 35-year career in insurance sales, his keen sense and charisma surely being the secrets to his success. It was there that he met Reba, a colleague and client; and, after their first two failed marriages, their friendship turned into romance.

Then, in 1979, Morandi was driving on Route 3 when his car got stuck, like an accordion between two trucks. His vehicle was demolished, but Morandi escaped the wreckage with nothing more than a bloody nose. Fortunately, once again, to be alive.

An excerpt from a Herald News article about the Morandi accident. Photo courtesy of Mario Morandi

Morandi, Catholic, and Reba, Methodist, married in 1985; until recently, they celebrated every September birthday with a month-long trip to different countries around the world. It was during their visit to Israel that Morandi rediscovered his faith; but the inspiration for his mission came with another near-tragedy in 2001.

Reba was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma of the skull; all he could do was pray. Whether it was a vision or a dream, Morandi said his prayers for Reba’s healing were answered by the Lord himself.

“I promised the Lord that I would dedicate my life to spreading his word.

Twenty years later, only the pandemic slowed it down a little; but he is “still strong and back in action”. He admits a benefit of the pandemic: He and Reba have saved some extra money to spend on his supply of religious items, since their monthly trips to Atlantic City have been suspended. Still, he’s offering more magnets these days, making them himself using icon images he cuts out from religious magazines and sticks on magnets he orders on Amazon. .

And just as those magnets will stick around someone’s fridge, my FaceTime time with Mario and Reba will stay with me for quite some time to come. Their dedication to each other and to their faith is heart warming – who doesn’t need a little boost of faith in humanity these days?

“I just hope everyone spreads the word of the Lord,” Morandi said. “Be happy. Enjoy life the best you can. And love your neighbor.