Man credits free pizza with saving his life


RONKONKOMA, NY (WCBS/CNN) – A New York man says a free pizza has inspired him to stay strong after losing his wife to cancer.

Dennis Kust, 59, says when he walked into Albert’s Pizza in Ronkonkoma, NY, last month, he had lost the will to live because his wife Cheryl had just lost her long, painful battle with cancer.

Struggling with deep depression, Kust didn’t realize the pizzeria owners and staff had started a “pay it forward with pizza” campaign.

Good-hearted customers had stepped forward to pay for pies for volunteers and police officers, single moms, people who lost their jobs and folks in despair like Dennis Kust.

When Kust opened the box with his donated pie, he started to cry. The anonymous donor had inscribed the very same message he’d heard every day from his dying wife: “stay strong.”

“The last months of my wife’s life, she kept telling me, ‘You have to be strong. You have to be strong,’” Kust said.

The man says the pizza box’s message convinced him his wife is still watching over him. He returned to thank the store’s owners and to give them a hand-written letter explaining how this simple act of kindness had saved his life.

“You don’t know me, but on March 25th, you turned my life around,” the letter read.

Co-owner of Albert’s, Rich Baer says he has read the letter dozens of times, and it always brings him to tears.

“When you do something nice, it works. You see somebody benefit,” Baer said.

Kust also stepped up to anonymously buy a pie for someone else.

“I’d like to somehow thank the people who bought it for me and let them know they saved my life,” he said.

The pay it forward pizza movement is growing rapidly as dozens of customers have bought pizzas for others. Like Kust, most are donating anonymously.

Copyright 2017 WCBS, Dennis Kust via CNN. All rights reserved.