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How a widow is honoring her late husband's memory — one handbag at a time

A New Jersey widow has found a way to honor her husband's memory and help those in need, one handbag at a time.

Marisa Spagnoletti is the owner of Lucy's Gift, a small business in Morristown, N.J., that turns sales of stylish handbags into a way to help women and children in the Garden State. Spagnoletti donates 100 percent of the proceeds from her sales to various charities in honor of her late husband, Maurice Spagnoletti.

"My husband was benevolent, always thinking of everyone else,'' Spagnoletti told Al Roker on TODAY Tuesday in the latest installment of the "Hope To It" series. "How can we help? How can we make a positive impact? I really wanted to make sure his legacy was carried on."

Lucy's Gift, which is named after the couple's daughter, was created as Spagnoletti anguished over the mysterious and violent death of Maurice in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on June 15, 2011. A prominent banker for Doral Financial, he was shot and killed by unknown assailants while sitting in his car in traffic on the highway.

The circumstances of his death at 57 years old remain under investigation more than four years later. Marisa filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court in Puerto Rico in 2013, asserting that Doral Financial did not provide sufficient protection for her husband after he uncovered evidence of questionable dealings at the bank, according to NJ.com.

"I had a dark period of time where it was a process in finding my way,'' Spagnoletti said. "I believe that through faith, love, support and the encouragement of so many, I was really able to build a new life."

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She founded the Maurice J. Spagnoletti Foundation, using her handbag sales to benefit charities like the P.G. Chambers School in Hanover, N.J., which helps children with special needs, and SAFE in Hunterdon, a New Jersey organization that supports women and children affected by domestic violence.

"We need more companies who give back to those less fortunate,'' Lucy's Gift client and sales associate Tasia Fields told TODAY. "(Spagnoletti) has the biggest heart in the world. All she wants is for this to affect the charities. If we can accomplish that one handbag at a time, why not?"

Giving back has helped Spagnoletti heal from the tragic loss of Maurice while also honoring his memory.

"I already achieved the most important goal,'' she said. "My husband is smiling down on me, and making him proud is just everything to my daughter and I. he's always with me. I see his legacy living on."

Follow TODAY.com writer Scott Stump on Twitter.

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