He had been noticing her every day for the past few weeks — a tiny woman walking past his auto shop, burdened by bags of groceries or totes bulging with belongings.
On Friday, as Newberry was inside doing paperwork, the woman “stopped and looked in at me and I could tell she was upset,” Newberry told InsideEdition.com Monday.
So he walked outside and began to speak to Ernestina Nunez, asking why she seemed so distraught.
“She just broke down. She was telling me that she was upset, that she had nothing left to live for. She just needed someone to lean on.”
Newberry was that person. And on that same day, he handed her a set of keys to one of the cars on his lot, no strings attached. But it took a lot of convincing, and a lot of listening, to get her to accept his sincerity.
Her son, a Marine who served overseas, committed suicide one year ago, Nunez told Newberry. He had PTSD and shot himself, leaving behind two young children. The woman, who is in her 60s, “was talking about killing herself,” Newberry said. “She said, ‘I don’t have any friends.”
Now you have a friend, Newberry told her. “I’m going to come out here every day and talk to you.”
To distract her from thoughts of ending her life, Newberry walked her around to where he had several cars for sale.
He tried to sell her a used car, but she laughed him off. He slashed $400 from the $1,000 price tag on a 1999 Ford Escort.
“I just can’t do it,” she said. So he dropped the price to $200, and said she could make payments on the rest of the amount.
She couldn’t afford that, either. So Newberry said, “Here’s the key, take it. It’s yours.”
She wouldn’t take it. So Newberry began live-streaming the exchange on Facebook, to prove his good intentions by making his offer public.
Finally, Nunez relented and accepted the keys.
Why did he do it?
“I’ve had trouble in my past. I’ve done a lot of bad things in my life. I broke the law. I’ve been homeless. I’ve been to prison.” He knows how it feels “thinking you have nothing left to go for,” he said.
Nunez will return Tuesday, when he will take her to the motor vehicles' office to transfer title of the car, he said. He will pay for her insurance to get her started. He also established a GoFundMe page to help her maintain her new vehicle.
His Facebook page has been deluged since he put up the footage of him trying to get Nunez to accept his gift.
He’s heard from a man who said he served with her son in the military. He intends to pass along that information to Nunez. Perhaps she will make another new friend.