Willie Viverette is usually the best-dressed man in the room, whether on the streets of Indianapolis or Paris.
It’s a far cry from the often-bullied, tattered-clothes kid at the bus stop that he used to be.
Her now dazzling wardrobe somewhat mimics her childhood; Hard lessons learned patterns with splashes of color and chaos.
As a child, Viverette had only her dreams. Now he would tell you that he saw them.
‘I wandered and I wandered’
Carolyn Jean Viverette worked hard as an assistant manager at a McDonald’s and attended Greater King Solomon Baptist Church.
She loved her son, Willie, who on the night of Tuesday, March 12, 1984, sat on her lap at their home along North Park Avenue in Indianapolis.
Her ex-boyfriend who moved out the previous week has returned home. In the cold 30 degree air with an unloaded .22 caliber rifle in one hand, he struck.
The two, who dated for five years, would argue at the door until Carolyn let him in where they continued to argue, according to authorities in an article published in The Indianapolis Star on Thursday, March 15 this year.
That’s when authorities say the ex loaded the gun and pointed it at Carolyn’s head and shot her just above her left eye. He would then drive her 14 blocks to the Methodist Hospital, but forget his young son at home.
“I wandered and I wandered outside,” Viverette said. “My mother’s best friend found me in the snow. She picked me up and took me to my grandfather.”
At the hospital, the ex-boyfriend told authorities the gun went off accidentally. Carolyn died a few hours later the next morning. She was only 21 years old. A grand jury on May 3, 1984, would indict the ex with murder.
Viverette was 2 years old.
The man who raised him
Viverette fondly remembers the time when it was just him and his grandfather, John Henry Viverette.
John Henry poured into the youngster. He gave her a house and food, taught her how to fish and also some money.
The elderly Vietnam veteran didn’t have much money, but like clockwork, when he cashed his Social Security check at the B&B Liquor store, he bought a Slim Jim or Big Mama marinated sausage from Viverette.
At age 6, Viverette said he had read his grandfather’s letters to him because he could not read. And he said he would count and hide, so he wouldn’t get robbed, the small amount of money his grandfather hustled around to sell weed.
“I owe him everything,” Viverette said. “Every little thing. He didn’t need to house me. He barely had anything himself.
As a rule, the clothes that Viverette wore were in tatters and for this, the children at the bus stop picked on him.
“I didn’t have nice clothes. I didn’t have nice shoes,” he said. “I was made fun of, you know what I’m saying? People would make jokes.”
With no personal money to buy new clothes and no father to defend him at the bus stop, Viverette’s loneliness and feelings of undesirability began to surface.
As if life hadn’t been hard enough for the young man who had lost his mother at such a young age, now this.
John Henry supported his grandson as best he could but died when Viverette was 14 years old.
Once again alone in the world, Viverette was now homeless, bouncing from aunt to aunt, from sofa to sofa.
The cockroach on his pillow
His last real paycheck, a whopping $315 after working 46 hours at the 38th Street donut shop, was the final straw for Viverette. He noticed that the money he earned was for someone else.
Hustling has become an easier and more profitable business. It was familiar to him – he had been helping his grandfather with his life since he was in first year.
This lifestyle led to tougher times and more chaos until Viverette found himself lying on a bed at the Always Inn, again with nowhere to go. He had just spent 10 days sleeping in his car with barely any food.
“I was depressed, man, just laying there and a cockroach ran on my pillow,” he said. “I said, ‘That’s not it here.'”
Viverette has doubled its drug sales. Hustling was always a side gig, now it had his full attention. He wouldn’t become homeless again and he probably wouldn’t stay in this hotel again.
“If that’s the risk I have to take to not be homeless,” he said. “It’s like that.”
While living with an ever-bustling distant cousin, Viverette cashed in his money after paying his share of the rent. Friends urged him to start learning more about investing, money, and ways to get rich.
“I started digging deep into financial literacy, the importance of credit and things like that. Nobody ever explained that stuff to me,” he said. “And it opened like a whole other door.”
Is anyone clapping now?
Out to eat, Viverette, then 26, was sitting alone at a table when his phone rang. On the other side was his mentor and real estate agent Clarence Richardson.
Richardson had good news to share, Viverette’s offer of $20,000 on a house ready to be razed had been accepted.
The call was surreal for Viverette, a blessing in her young life. No one in his family had ever owned a home.
“I’m about to own something,” he remembers thinking. “It was a moment of tears. I just thought like everyone who counted me. I’ve always been a good person, but I just feel like no one is going to clap for you until you you won’t make it.”
The most monumental moment in Viverette’s life turned into her emergence from poverty. Investing has become his new side hustle.
Over the next few years, Viverette will buy and sell 15 homes. He started investing in the stock market and starting various businesses. He continued to read books like “Rich Dad Poor Dad” and “The Richest Man in Babylon”, suggested to him by his friend Marcus Wayne.
Since 2015, Viverette has been helping others in the community with financial literacy, launching what it calls The Wealth Factor, where it helps clients repair their credit, learn how to invest, and understand various financial markets.
“You can start now,” he said. “Let everyone around you know. Let the next generation know, let your kids know, let your grandkids know. So they can all get off to a better start than you.”
The tattered clothes he once wore are gone. With money came style and Viverette is not holding back. He started dressing as a rich man and said people treated him better. When he couldn’t find the right bow tie for his stylish new wardrobes, he started a business and created his own.
“I should have been dead,” he said as he stood next to his grandfather’s grave inside New Crown Cemetery on the southeast side of Indianapolis. “Every day is a gift to me, and I don’t take it for granted.”