How one woman’s 25-year bond with her ice cream man helped her get through childhood trauma

Ever since her middle school days, De’Nisha Beasley, who’s now 39 years old, has eagerly awaited the familiar jingle of her neighborhood ice cream truck. Specifically, she looks forward to having a sweet exchange with the driver, whom she affectionately calls “My ice cream man.”

“He loves my daughter!” Beasley’s mother, Gail Beasley, explains in a video capturing their dynamic. “Ever since she was a little girl, he’s been serving her ice cream.”

The tender video shared on Beasley’s Instagram shows the moment her old pal eagerly climbs down from his truck as she runs to give him a hug.

Ice Cream Friendship (Courtesy De’Nisha Beasley)
Ice Cream Friendship (Courtesy De’Nisha Beasley)

“The ice cream man showed up every day at the same time for over 25 years,” Beasley wrote in the caption of her post. “For a child who experienced a lot of trauma, having that consistency was incredibly healing. He always greeted me with the same love and excitement every time he saw me. As a child without much money, getting a free ice cream every single day really meant a lot—and it still does.”

Beasley’s post prompted Instagram users to share thoughts about community support as well as their own memories of turning over couch cushions to purchase a treat from their local ice cream trucks.

“This is what community was about back in the day you were raised by a village,” one user commented. “The fact he has been coming around for 25 yrs and remembered you is amazing.”

“I remember my ice cream man,” another user recalled. “He was an angel. I ran into him after about 18 years in a city 60 miles away, he recognized me and my brother immediately and when I say I boohooed.”

“I don’t have his name. I’ve always called him ‘My ice cream man,’” Beasley explains in an exclusive interview with, adding the conversations between them are often limited.

While she says she doesn’t know much about him, what she does know is their quarter century of happy exchanges are memories she holds dear to her heart to this day. Every summer, he still makes his way to her neighborhood in Detroit and graciously treats her to free ice cream. Beasley says he even slows down when he gets to her block, giving her enough time to head outside before he’s off to the next group of houses

“I don’t remember when he started being like, ‘you don’t pay,’ but I just know every time I tried to pay him, he was like, ‘no, no,’” she says of their early interactions. “Then it got to the point where I just ran to the truck every day, and that was huge for me.”

Beasley can still remember how — before her vendor-turned-friend came along — she used to dig around her house for change whenever she heard an ice cream truck drive by.

“We just didn’t have money like that,” she explains. “And so when he (started to come) around, I don’t know if he knew that or he kind of picked that up. But from whatever point (he began to visit), I just remember him always being like, ‘No.’”

Beasley says they’ve developed a symbiotic relationship over the years. He knows her order —vanilla ice cream with caramel and sprinkles — and she can anticipate his arrival.

“I can almost always guesstimate where he is,” Beasley says, noting she’s sharply attuned to his truck’s specific jingle. “I know that sound.”

The Detroit native says for years that melody offered a glimmer of hope and something to look forward to during a time of deep tumult and pain.

“I experienced a lot of trauma as a child, specifically in my community,” she explains. “People being murdered — my father was murdered, my uncle was murdered. So, all the male figures in my life; I lost it at that age."

Beasley says it’s an interesting coincidence that the ice cream man she cherishes so much first started to come around about the same time her father died.

“He showed up every day,” Beasley says. “I could count on when he (was) gonna show up.”

She adds that with an absent father, having this reliable figure was far more important than she initially realized, describing the consistency as “really helpful” to her.

These days, Beasley works as a therapist and helps others heal relationships with themselves. She says her profession has granted her a deeper appreciation for the pureness of that childhood-turned-adulthood dynamic and the impact a father figure of any kind can make on a person’s life.

“His consistent schedule of just kind of coming around and knowing that every day this person is going to be here,” she explains. “This male is going to be every day with a smile on his face and just being very kind without expecting anything in return.”

To pay it forward, Beasley organizes events focusing on bringing her community together. She’s helped to create a nonprofit that focuses on anti-trafficking and child sexual exploitation, and holds events where kids in her area are given free scoops.

“That was so important to my childhood,” she explains. “Ice cream means a lot to me because of him.”

Beasley says she often imagines a day when she’ll be able to return the ice cream man’s kindness and warmth.

“If I could take care of him or retire him because, I don’t know, he’s older now — I wish he could just chill out and not have to worry,” she explains. “I always just want him to know how much I care about him. And I want the best for him.”

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