EDITOR’S NOTE: Chris Salvatore has announced that Norma Cook, his elderly roommate portrayed in the story below, died today. In a post on Facebook, Salvatore said:
It’s with a heavy heart that I share the news that earlier this morning the world lost a truly inspiring, beautiful woman. Norma is now resting peacefully in the eternal and while she may no longer physically be with us, her spirit will continue to fill the hearts of so many people. Perhaps Norma’s lasting legacy is that her story helped the world to see the true meaning of love. Norma reminded me that we all are created to love and all desire to be loved. This year Norma has helped the world see the true meaning of Valentine’s Day. To love another is not about living struggle free or never experiencing hurt or loss, but to fully and deeply open our hearts to one another without fear. Each of us is lovable even with all of our differences. Love has no boundaries. May you rest in peace my sweet sweet lady, Norma. ❤️
She calls him “the grandson she never had.” Chris Salvatore, the 31-year-old actor and singer, describes Norma Cook, his 89-year-old roommate, as “friendly but sassy.”
Salvatore’s decision to let the ailing Cook move into his apartment has sparked coverage over the last few months in everything from People magazine to London’s Independent newspaper to NBC’s Today show.
Salvatore moved near Cook’s apartment in West Hollywood four years ago. “One day I came into the apartment, she offered me a glass of champagne. We have been best friends ever since,” Salvatore said in an interview with ABC 6.
Then Cook developed leukemia and doctors told her she had only a few months to live and needed 24-hour care. Salvatore launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to help Cook stay in her apartment and receive that care. While successful, ultimately it wasn’t enough. So Salvatore invited Cook to move into his apartment. “I couldn’t just rip her out of her home. The next best thing was to just move her five steps across the hall into my apartment.”
“I love her, she’s my best friend. I would do anything for her,” Salvatore told People magazine. “I believe that human kindness is a magical thing and can heal what doctors can’t.”
The story of Salvatore and Cook, dubbed “unlikely friends” and the “odd couple” in various magazines, has emerged as the City of West Hollywood has developed a five-year plan to help seniors “age in place” without having to move into nursing homes. In West Hollywood, a city of 34,399 people as of the 2010 U.S. Census, 5,125 of residents are ages 65 to 79. Those who are 80 and older number 1,904. And while West Hollywood and its residents continue to age, the question is whether its residents can age in place.
Salvatore has chronicled his relationship with Cook on his Twitter account @CSalvatore. In a post on Feb. 10 he said: “It has been a beautiful and humbling experience to go through with her by my side. About a week ago she began to lose her ability to walk. If anyone knows the strong and tenacious Norma, you would know that this has absolutely crushed her spirit. She was always a woman on a mission even up until last week. She even had me order her some pink show hats so that she could attend the next women’s march. Within the last couple of days Norma’s energy has shifted and it is clear to myself and the nurses that the early signs of her letting go are here. I am so grateful for her ever lasting presence in my life and for all of you who are going through this with us. Please send love her way.”
In May 2015 Salvatore created a video, posted below, about pizza night with Norma that illustrates their relationship.