The one person Charles Doherty could open up to when something was bothering him is gone now.

Joe Perdoni, a Wellesley native and the owner of Old School Pizzeria in Wellesley Square, died unexpectedly in the early morning hours of May 14. He left behind a wife, two children and a pizza parlor that remains a cornerstone of its community.

“He would always bring people up when they were down,” said Doherty while standing at the edge of the Old School counter a week after his friend’s passing. “I can remember people coming in here just to talk to him.”

Perdoni, 37, could tell when someone was troubled by something or was having a bad day and took it upon himself to do whatever he could to make it right, according to Doherty. The impact of that personal touch was obvious as the windows of Old School are now decorated with messages of love and support from community members.

“Every single customer has walked in the store and was just deeply saddened and more than supportive of the family’s needs,” Doherty said. “I knew, but I didn’t realize everybody knew, how great a guy he was.”

Perdoni opened Old School in 2011 and Doherty joined as a manager a year later after Perdoni, his neighbor, convinced him to leave a job working for a website. Doherty said the two formed an everlasting bond in the time since, and Perdoni was the one person he was able to open up to.

“He had an ability to read people in an instant… He could tell someone was troubled or worried,” he said.

“You know, for me, even when he was alive just thinking of him made me feel better… It would just turn my mood around for the positive,” Doherty recalled before pausing for a while. “He was the only person I’d feel comfortable talking to about a situation like this… Now I find myself… who do I talk to now?”

Community support

Scores of customers have gone to the shop to offer condolences in the form of notes, flowers, pictures and drawings. One child came in Friday afternoon and announced that he’d like to tape a drawing up outside for the departed pizza man.

Marlena Iannicelli left her post behind the cash register to better secure the child’s drawing. She bit her lip and looked at the ground as she returned to the counter and answered the ringing phone. Nobody was on the other end.

“He was larger than life… He made sure everybody laughed all the time,” Iannicelli said, adding that Perdoni was more than happy to offer her a job last September as she prepared for her then-upcoming wedding “He wanted to help anybody that came in. He kind of gave me a head start starting my family. He was a good guy.”

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