MANHATTAN — A fundraising effort for the children of a cash-strapped married couple who jumped to their deaths from a Midtown high-rise last week has already garnered tens of thousands of dollars in donations.
Last Friday Dr. Glenn Scarpelli, 53, and his wife, Patricia Colant, 50, leapt from 29 E. 33rd St., where he worked as a chiropractor, at about 5:40 a.m. — with the couple saying in suicide notes that they'd been having financial problems, police and friends said.
They left behind two children — Joseph, 19, and Isabella, 20 — currently attending the University of Miami and the University of Texas, respectively, friends said.
In response, the couple's friends launched an online fundraising campaign that day to help pay the children's tuition. As of Wednesday morning the campaign had raised more than $59,000 of its $100,000 goal.
Those who knew the couple said they were not shocked by the donations, recalling how Scarpelli acted as a mentor to young chiropractors and volunteered at Ground Zero immediately following 9/11.
"I’m so moved, but I’m not at all surprised," said fellow chiropractor Amy Burke. "They gave to so many people and it doesn't surprise me, but [the money] coming back [to them] now, hurts."
The New York Post reported that the couple owed $23,304 in federal taxes and had an April 2015 lien for a $232,295 debt
Burke, who met the couple in 2003 when she first moved to New York City, said she became acquainted with them at Scarpelli's practice, the Madison Wellness Center on East 33rd Street. The couple opened the practice in 1990 after Scarpelli graduated from Logan University in Missouri, according to his LinkedIn profile.
"Both of them were such amazing people and were so genuine and kind, and in Midtown Manhattan, everybody [at their practice] felt like they had walked into an oasis of a different time and space," Burke recalled. "They always asked about everybody's kids and family... they were just kind. Patricia ran the office... her presence took you by surprise in how beautiful she was, but she was so humble and warm with everyone. She was one of the most down-to-earth people I've met."
Another chiropractor who was friendly with the couple for 16 years, Dr. Adam Lamb, was awed by Scarpelli's character, especially the kindness he showed to other doctors.
"He went to Logan University and mentored any graduate student, especially from Logan," Dr. Lamb said. "He'd take them into his office, give them free rent [for a space in the center] and teach them how to do everything. Nobody does that, especially nobody in the chiropractic industry in New York City. This is a terrible loss."
Dr. Scarpelli tirelessly volunteered at Ground Zero with Dr. Lamb and another chiropractor, Dr. David Levin, after the 9/11 attacks by attending to rescuers.
"His first thing to do after the attack was to help rescue workers," Dr. Levin said. "He went down there with chiropractic tables and the rescuers' eyes lit up, because it was early on, just a couple of days afterwards next to the wreckage of the burning towers, and they came to us immediately. Their bodies were in pain from digging, and their minds were a complete mess because nobody was sleeping."
Glenn Scarpelli volunteering in Lower Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks. (Credit: David Levin)
Levin called Scarpelli his mentor and friend, who often brought Levin with him and his wife to volunteer at various soup kitchens and homeless shelters.
"Patty was always by his side and together they were doing these things," he added. "They did everything as a couple. They were Italian Catholic and deep into their faith as well. [Their death] doesn't seem to make much sense."
Burke agreed, saying she was devastated and shocked to hear the news of their suicides.
"I still cannot fathom those two people making that decision together," she said. "It makes no sense to me. I understand there was severe financial duress, but it hurts my heart so much that they gave so much to so many people and felt so isolated that they couldn’t ask for help."
If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide, call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.