Photo provided by a No Name Key amiga
From The Key West Citizen yesterday:
Mayor recalls classmate who died homeless
Service held for 53 poor, homeless who died this year
BY GWEN FILOSA Citizen Staff
Mayor Craig Cates arrived at the city’s cemetery Friday to take part in the annual memorial service for those who die homeless only to trip over one name on the list of 53 indigent dead. “Charles Russell,” Cates said from the podium at the dignified ceremony held under blue skies between two walls of white stone vaults. “He was one of my good friends in school.” That’s when Cates, 59, choked up for a moment, pausing as he absorbed the fact that a childhood pal who grew up to struggle on the streets for years died without family to bury him. “He had mental issues and still was a proud person,” Cates said. Russell, nicknamed “Charlie Duck,” who over the years slept outdoors in Old Town backyards, sheds and alleys, died Nov. 7 at Lower Keys Medical Center. He was 60, and known by locals as a lover of dogs and a regular at Sunbeam market at the corner of Fleming and White streets. “I didn’t know he had died,” said Cates, after the service when he found himself choked up while reading the city’s proclamation declaring Friday in honor of the homeless and poor who died on the island this year. Friday’s annual service, led by the Rev. Steve Braddock, president and CEO of Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, including a reading of the first names of the final count, 53, who were cremated via county funds and placed in vaults at Key West Cemetery. The list included two infants, a girl named Mercedes and an unnamed baby boy. The average age of death, not including the infants, was 56. Fourteen were homeless, according to a report by the county’s Social Services division. For $900 each, the county collects the bodies and searches for next of kin before taking care of the cremations and burials. Last year’s list held 71 names. “No one should have to live alone or die alone or be buried and interred alone,” said the Rev. Larry Schenk of Peace Covenant Presbyterian Church, during the eulogy. “Many of us don’t know any of these people, at least not by name. Most of us are here because of our common humanity with them.” Schenk’s final words to the group of more than 60 that gathered silently for the service were: “Be kind to one another.” The memorial, along with one in Marathon and another in Tavernier, were the work of the Monroe County Homeless Services Continuum of Care, which recently formed to become the lead agency for nonprofits when it comes to receiving federal grants. Some families who couldn’t afford to bury their own, didn’t want full names used during the service, Braddock said. Since the cremations and final resting place are paid for by taxpayer dollars, Friday’s burial list is public record. The majority were not homeless, but rather from families too poor to hold a funeral or died without any next of kin that officials could find. The list included Waldemar Pacheco, 52, who died in a Monroe County jail in March, and Guadalupe Montiel, 47, whose body was found floating in Key West Harbor in October. Also remembered Friday were Colleen Rose Knoth, a native of Grosse Pointe, Mich., who died at age 33 on Jan. 2, within the hour that Terril Schmidt, 47, was found dead on his couch. Schmidt was found in his rented apartment in Old Town surrounded by empty booze bottles on the floor and couch where he was found seated, head back. Friends of Knoth said she, too, had an alcohol dependency that likely contributed to her death.The county medical examiner hasn’t yet released a specific cause of death. But the mayor and several locals Friday afternoon were shocked to learn that Charlie Duck had died. Cates had known Duck since high school, when the two teens hung out together. “I grew up on Fleming and he grew up on Eaton,” Cates said, naming the classic Key West streets of the two men’s childhood homes. “Everybody knew Charlie.” The nickname came from Russell’s signature walk as a kid, which had a touch of waddle to it, like a duck, said Cates. Cates found Charlie planting his campaign signs both times he ran for the two-year term. Charlie also knew where to find the Spanish lime trees, the mayor said. Cates said that he figured that Charlie had someone who would bury him when he died. Also during the service, Cates briefly noted that the City Commission is dedicated to improving services for its homeless residents. There are plans, recently approved by the commission and long-held by Cates, to begin taking steps to build a 24-hour comprehensive shelter on Stock Island. Cates said, “We’re doing what we can, I believe, to move in the right direction.”
During the service, one of the ministers thanked Gwen for writing articles which keep area homeless people from being hidden in plain view.
After the service concluded, I told Craig Cates that I was sorry about his friend. Craig said he had only just learned that his friend was homeless. I wondered if learning that might move Craig to tell his city and its police to be kinder to homeless people, who are not causing other people trouble? KOTS can only sleep maybe 1/3 of the Key West area homeless people. The other 2/3s need to be allowed to sleep, too, wherever they bed down, outside, in their cars.
The service was exquisite, rising to the level of the Hidden In Plain View homelss art, poetry and music exhibition. Divine music and singing was provided by local harpist Melody Cooper. Here is the prayer Father Steven Braddock spoke after Melody’s invocational medody:
I invite you to pray with me to the God of your personal understanding, tradition and experience.
Loving God, Yahweh, Allah, Abba, Jesus, Krisna, Shang Ti, Higher Power, Great Spirit, Source of all Life and Love; we call You by these and many other names, for You have created us as many people.
We gather on this longest night of the year to stand in the light of Your love, Your Comfort, and Your hope. We gather to remember and pray for all homeless individuals and families, here and across our nation who have no place to call home tonight; those who live on the streets and in parks, in shelters or cars, and on borrowed sofas.
We gather to remember each one who must worry about where their next meal is coming from; whether health care and medicine will be affordable or available; whether the next paycheck will be the last; whether help will be there when in is needed most.
We gather to remember each one who has died. To remember the thousands who have been lost on the streets from exposure, or violence, or neglect.
And, we gather to remember and to mourn these fifty-one people who died while homeless and after living in poverty in our community. Each of them was known by name, and each will be called by name again today.
These were persons who were mostly unknown to each other. Some were known to many of us, others not. They came from differing places and situations. They represent varying ages, ethnicity and genders. They suffered various afflictions of the body, mind and spirit.
What they all shared in common were lives deeply impacted by the scourge of poverty and homelessness.
Dear God, help us to see Your face in the eyes of every homeless person we meet; so that we may be empowered through word and deed, and through the political means that we have, to bring justice and peace to those who are homeless and hurting.
Give us courage, individually and together, as your one human family. Give us the courage to speak so that their voices may be heard.
We pray that we who still live may always be a part of the world’s light and not its darkness, its faith and not its fear, its love and not is hate. So that we may know in new and deeper ways that we are indeed One.
In Your many names, we pray. Amen
Several other local ministers also spoke eloquently. I also asked Rev. Larry Shenck to email me his elogoy, which Steve Braddock sent to me yesterday morning.
Thanks, Steve, Larry sent me his eulogy in an email a little while ago, and I replied that I thought I would write tomorrow about the memorial service and include your prayer and his eulogy and perhaps a bit more. It was an exquisite memorial, rivaling Hidden In Plain View. Sloan
Christmas blessing to you Sloan. Much peace in 2013.
Click here to take a virtual tour of FKOC!
Same to you Steve. I sure could use a little more peace myself, but when something like this below from a solid source comes in just a little while ago, I wonder how 2013 will go.
|Dec 20,11pm,,,St mary church ground, Truman ave. 2 men sleeping 1 being Ray,ray. Raymond LaChelle. And a black man name unknown. Awakened by key west police 1 being Steven Mitchell who began cussing at the 2 homeless men, you motherfuckers are trespassing and I Hate your fucking guts and do you know I wanted to send my kids to school here but because of you fucking bums I wont let them come her and I’m going to see to it that you fucking bums are out of Monroe county. Fake radio transmission transpired pretending to run their IDs….apparently he didn’t want his cause documented (Mitchell) as to his and his partners where abouts I feel this man needs Psyc. Treatment and the town of key west will pay for it but he doese’t want it on his record…..stay tuned, this man will commit a murder and the town will lie for him to be vindicated.|
Daffy Duck, a Viet combat vet [not in this photo, that’s another Viet vet], retired fireman and retired businessman still suffering tremendous post-traumatic shock from Vietnam. He lives in his van in Key West, when he doesn’t have a place to stay inside. He travels about, up and down the Eastern Seaboard and perhaps some inland. I met him in the soup kitchen line when it was at St. Mary’s, a while before that church revolted and made Dorothy Sherman move the kitchen out to Flagler Avenue. Daffy gave me my first bicycle, which he had recycled from a junk pile, using maybe 2 or 3 bikes to get it working okay. Later, he gave me another recycled bicycle, when I needed one. Saved my butt, having those bicycles, which I could not afford to buy even at deep discount recycled prices. Daffy seems able to make himself invisible, hangs out places and hears all sorts of stuff, some of which he passes along to me, most of which I publish. I have heard from him about Mitchell before, and I have heard about Mitchell from other people. From all I’ve heard, Daffy told it pretty good.
Officer Mitchell needs help, and it would be a kindness to him and to homeless people for him to be given a beat where he is not as likely to encounter homeless people.
From Rev. Schenk yesterday:
Thank you for requesting a copy of my words at yesterday’s service. It is always a very moving service and attended by so many well-meaning and hardworking people who are supportive of those in need.
Thank you for your frequent words in defense of them as well and for your willingness to take on the tough subjects of our community not only addressing them, but offering yourself as one who will step up to do something about them.
Below are my remarks. Happy holidays and a terrific 2013 to you and yours.
HOMELESS MEMORIAL SERVICE
THERE ARE TWO PASSAGES FROM HOLY SCRIPTURES THAT I’D LIKE US TO KEEP IN MIND AS WE PAUSE TO REMEMBER THOSE WHO HAVE DIED AMONG US, AND WHO WE HAVE COME TO HONOR AND REMEMBER TODAY.
ONE IS FROM THE JEWISH TRADITION:
“A WANDERING ARAMEAN WAS MY ANCESTOR; HE WENT DOWN INTO EGYPT AND LIVED THERE AS AN ALIEN…”
AND THE OTHER IS FROM THE CHRISTIAN TRADITION:
“THE SON OF MAN HAS NOWHERE TO LAY HIS HEAD…”
BOTH REMIND US THAT FOREVER THERE HAVE BEEN THOSE AMONG US, WHO ARE ALIENS, OUTCASTS, MARGINALIZED PEOPLE, SEPARATED FROM THE REST OF US, YET IN THE VERY MIDST OF US.
THIS WAS SO BRILLIANTLY BROUGHT HOME TO US RECENTLY IN OUR OWN COMMUNITY THROUGH ARTIST, PHOTOGRAPHER, ERIKA BIDDLE’S EXHIBITION, “HIDDEN IN PLAIN VIEW.”
AS TOUCHING AND MOVING A TRIBUTE AS THAT WAS, EVEN IT CAME UNDER FIRE BY SOME, THE TARGET OF ANIMOSITY AND SARCASM FROM THOSE HIDING BEHIND THE ANONYMITY OF THEIR COMMENTS IN THE CITIZEN’S VOICE.
BY WAY OF CONTRAST, LET ME TAKE A MOMENT AND OFFER A WORD OF THANKS: I WANT TO PERSONALLY THANK REPORTER GWEN FILOSA OF THE KEY WEST CITIZEN, WHO IN DOING HER JOB SO WELL, KEEPS THOSE WHO ARE HIDDEN IN PLAIN VIEW, BEFORE ALL OF US ON A REGULAR BASIS.
A TRADITIONAL WAY OF DEALING WITH ENEMIES, ALIENS, OUTCASTS, ANYONE WE “DON’T LIKE” IS TO DEHUMANIZE THEM – MAKING THEM LESS THAN OURSELVES.
TO DO SO MAKES IT MUCH EASIER FOR US TO IGNORE THEM, NEGLECT THEM, ABUSE THEM, HATE THEM.
BUT IT IS ALWAYS THAT WHICH IS UNIVERSAL, OUR COMMON HUMANITY, THAT IN THE END, WE CANNOT DENY OR ESCAPE, AND WHICH FINALLY MAKES IT POSSIBLE FOR US TO RECOGNIZE ALL AS ONE.
THAT WE ARE BORN, LIVE, AND DIE.
THAT WE LAUGH, LOVE, AND CRY.
THAT WE NEED FOOD, DRINK, AND REST.
MOST OF US HERE THIS AFTERNOON PROBABLY KNEW ONLY A FEW OF THOSE WHO HAVE DIED AND WHOSE NAMES WILL BE READ IN A FEW MOMENTS FROM NOW.
IN FACT, MANY OF US, PERHAPS EVEN MOST OF US HERE, KNEW NONE OF THESEPEOPLE, AT LEAST NOT BY NAME.
MOST OF US ARE NOT HERE BECAUSE WE KNEW THEM AND LOVED THEM FOR WHO THEY WERE, WE ARE HERE BECAUSE OF OUR COMMON HUMANITY WITH THEM.
WE ARE HERE BECAUSE NONE OF US SHOULD EVER HAVE TO LIVE ALONE, DIE ALONE, OR BE BURIED/INTERRED ALONE.
AND WHEN THE NAMES OF EACH OF THOSE WHO HAVE DIED ARE READ, THEY WILL NOT BE ALONE; WE WILL BE HERE FOR THEM.
AND IN A MUCH TOO BRIEF A WAY, A FAR TOO ISOLATED WAY, A KNOWING WAY TOO LITTLE ABOUT THEM WAY, THEY WILL BE WITH US AS WELL.
IT IS NOT ENOUGH, BUT IT IS SOMETHING.
I SUPPOSE WE COULD SAY THAT THEY REPRESENT ALL OF THE HOMELESS AMONG US – THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE, THOSE HERE AND ELSEWHERE, THE LIVING AND THE DEAD;
I SUPPOSE WE COULD SAY THAT BY OUR BEING HERE TODAY WE WILL COMMIT OURSELVES, RECOMMIT OURSELVES, TO DO BETTER BY THOSE LIKE THEM IN THE FUTURE;
AND IN SO DOING, HONOR THE LIVES OF THOSE WE HAVE COME TO INTER TODAY;
AND THAT WOULD BE WONDERFUL IF THAT WERE TO HAPPEN; AND THERE’S CERTAINLY PLENTY TO DO.
WONDERFUL PROGRAMS, STELLAR AGENCIES, IMPRESSIVE PLANS FOR THE FUTURE BY THE CITY AND COUNTY AND THESE PARTNER AGENCIES, OFFERING ALL OF US EVEN GREATER OPPORTUNITIES TO GET INVOLVED, TO BE INVOLVED, TO STAY INVOLVED.
BUT TODAY – THIS DAY – ON THIS LONGEST NIGHT OF THE YEAR – THAT IS NOT REALLY OUR PURPOSE FOR BEING HERE;
WE ARE HERE TO BURY THE DEAD WHO HAVE DIED HOMELESS OR INDIGENT AMONG US.
THE WOMEN, THE MEN, AND YES, EVEN THE CHILDREN, WHO HAVE DIED, HOMELESS, ON OUR STREETS, HIDDEN, BUT IN PLAIN VIEW, EVERY DAY.
51 LIVES – 51 SOULS – 51 HUMAN BEINGS LIKE OURSELVES WHO:
WERE BORN, LIVED, AND DIED;
WHO LAUGHED, LOVED, AND CRIED;
WHO WERE HUNGRY, AND THIRSTY, AND RESTLESS.
EACH LIFE A JOURNEY.
EACH JOURNEY A STORY.
EACH STORY A LIFETIME OF LIVING.
THEY ARE THOSE WHO HAVE WANDERED AMONG US – ALIENS – WITH NO PLACE TO LAY THEIR HEADS…
UNTIL NOW – IN THIS PLACE – AND BETTER – IN WHATEVER LIFE BEYOND THIS LIFE IN WHICH WE AND THEY BELIEVE.
THOSE WHO LIVED AND DIED AMONG US – NOW ALIVE FOREVERMORE.
THAT IS OUR HOPE. THAT IS OUR FAITH. THAT IS WHAT MANY OF US BELIEVE, AND WHICH WE HOLD TRUE.
AS THEIR NAMES ARE READ IN A FEW MOMENTS I WOULD ASK THAT WE HOLD THEM IN OUR HEARTS, MINDS, AND SPIRITS…
THAT WE WOULD TREASURE THEIR MEMORY AND GIVE HONOR TO THEIR LIVES…
THAT WE WOULD STAND WITH THEM – NO LONGER AS ALIENS AND STRANGERS AMONG US, WITH NO PLACE TO LAY THEIR HEADS – BUT AS THOSE WHOM GOD HAS WELCOMED HOME.
LET IT BE OUR PRAYER, AND OUR WORK, THAT THIS TIME NEXT YEAR, THERE WILL BE FEWER NAMES TO BE READ.
ONE OF THE STORIES COMING OUT OF THE TRAGEDY IN NEWTOWN, CT, ONE WEEK AGO TODAY IS THAT THE PRINCIPAL OF THE SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, WHO DIED TRYING TO PROTECT HER STUDENTS, IS SAID TO HAVE CLOSED HER MORNING ANNOUNCEMENTS ON THE INTERCOM, EACH DAY, ALWAYS WITH THE SAME WORDS:
“BE KIND TO ONE ANOTHER, FOR THAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING OF ALL.”
BE KIND TO ONE ANOTHER…
And thank you for saying those words yesterday. It’s looking like I will write about yesterday’s service, in tomorrow’s post, and it will include Steve Braddock’s opening prayer and your words, and probably a bit more. Will send you a copy. Here’s what was arranged for today’s ravings, with a little help from a Key West friend and words of encouragement in dreams last night. Sloan
In a nap dream yesterday, I heard, “There is an Ice Age everywhere on this world but this area.” There was more in the dream, stuff in which I was involved and getting more involved with other people. Ice Age would mean, spiritually frozen. Perhaps regarding homeless people, perhaps generally.
I’m glad they didn’t ask me to speak at the memorial service. I might not have been eloquent. I might have said, “These departed homeless people might be far better off now, than they were in this life. They might be better off now, than any of us here today.”
However, for homeless people, and for all people who feel their backs are against a wall, I was told in a dream last night to share this “story” I lived in June 1995.
Once upon a time there lived a man named Joseph, who grew tired of living with people and left his village and went into the woods to live. By and by, a wolf pack discovered Joseph and over time got to know him and that he was not like other men, and eventually they took him into their pack. The leader of the pack was a red wolf named David, and soon David and Joseph became fast friends, and they hunted and played and slept together like . . . wolves. Then one day, the men in the village where Joseph had lived learned from hunters that Joseph was living with wolves. The men decided that it was not right for a man to go off and live in the woods and run with with wolves. So they got their guns and set off to find Joseph and bring him back to the village, to live like a man. The men came upon the wolf pack sleeping in the sun next to a bluff. The wind was blowing off the bluff, away from the wolf pack toward the men, which prevented the pack from scenting the men as they approached. By the time the wolf pack realized the men were there, the men had the pack surrounded, pinned against the bluff. David wanted to order the pack to charge, but Joseph said, “No, I am a man, they will listen to reason, let me go and speak with them.” Although David did not like this idea, he agreed to it because Joseph was a man. But the men would not listen to reason and they shot and killed the entire pack and took Joseph heartbroken back to the village. Joseph languished in the village for many weeks, blaming himself for the death of his pack. Then he had a dream in which he sees David’s face. David is angry, but says nothing, just stares. Finally, Joseph blurts out that he did the best he knew how to do, and he’s so sorry for the way it turned out! David says, “Better that we attacked and died like wolves, than be slaughtered like sheep!” Then Joseph is back with the pack, against the bluff, surrounded by the men. David says he wants the pack to attack. Joseph says, “And I will lead the charge!” Then they hear a voice, the whole pack hears it say, “There is another way, ask for another way.” Never before have Joseph, David or the pack had such a thing happen, but Joseph asks for another way. Suddenly, a great bolt of lightning strikes the ground between the pack and the men, stirring up a huge cloud of dust. As the wolves and men wait, the dust begins to settle, and in it begins to take the shape of something huge, even as the wolves and Joseph now see a pair of red eyes peering from the bushes behind the men. Then a second pair of red eyes. Then a third pair. Then ten pair. Then a hundred pair. Then a legion of . . . wolves eyes. The men now are moved by some force to turn around and see what the now delirious pack already see. Then they turn back around and find themselves face to face with a great towering eagle, whose piercing golden eyes penetrate their hearts. Then they hear, “These are my battle angels. You may leave this place and go back to your village, taking your guns with you, on condition that you tell everyone what has happened here today, and that no man should ever hunt wolves again, who are not hunting men.” To this condition the men readily agree, and they return to their village and tell everyone what happened, and they go to nearby villages and tell it, and from that day on men do not hunt wolves.