Cold kills homeless man in Jacksonville, FL, USA - Memorial Thurs

Tom Boland (
Wed, 29 Dec 1999 19:01:51 -0800 (PST)
FWD  Jacksonville Daily News - Wednesday, December 29, 1999



MOREHEAD CITY -- Three shopping carts filled with clothing, food, books and
other possessions that belonged to Thomas Days sat outside Capps Printing
in Morehead City Tuesday tied with black ribbons.

Just above the carts was a message on the business's marquee: "One of God's
Children. Thomas Days, 1949-1999. He Was Loved By All."

John and Jane Capps assembled the tribute after learning of the passing of
their 50-year-old homeless friend, who was found dead Monday morning of
apparent exposure.

Mrs. Capps called Days' death the loss of a "town treasure." John Capps was
quick to agree.

"He'll really be missed," he said.

Days, known simply as "Thomas" by most, had been offered places to live
over the years but chose to remain homeless. When it was time to sleep,
he'd prop up against a building or tree or pop into places where he was

One place where he could always count on the door being open was Capps

Thomas came to "live" with the Cappses about three years ago after several
old houses where he would often stay were torn down to accommodate the
Bridges Street extension.

"He came to me then and asked if he could leave his cart and his stuff at
my place (Capps Printing)," Mr. Capps said.

The Cappses had known Thomas and had no problem saying yes.

Thomas was given a key and since then had been allowed to come and go from
their business whenever he felt like it.

"He stayed right there in the office," Mr. Capps said. "We trusted him and
we never found anything out of place. It gave him a bathroom to use and
comfort from the weather."

And Thomas often accepted the Capps' kindness, particularly during colder
weather, but he would also disappear for several days at a time.

"He would be here when he wanted to be," Mr. Capps said, unsure why Thomas
chose not to stay at their business on the last night of his life or why
they hadn't seen him since just before Christmas.

What John and Jane Capps do know is that they had a friend in Thomas.

To ease their grief, they tried to focus on the good times they had with
him, including this year's celebration of Thomas' 50th birthday with a
candle-topped chocolate cake.

"He was just as happy as he could be about his 50th birthday," Mr. Capps said.

They also remember the many Wednesday nights he'd stop by and ask for a
ride to United Pentecostal Church on Bridges Street.

"He'd stop by and say, 'Mr. John would you mind taking me down to church.'
Then he'd get cleaned up a little and we'd go," Capps said.

The Cappses aren't alone in their fondness for Thomas.

There were often people who would stop by to check on Thomas or offer him
help, whether it be a warm jacket for him to wear, books or newspapers for
his passion of reading, or aluminum for him to sell to the recycling
company, Mr. Capps said.

Others may not have known Thomas personally but they knew of him, often
passing him by as he pushed one of his shopping carts down the town's

Bob Gray, manager of Hope Mission soup kitchen, a frequent stop for Thomas,
has called Thomas the town's "most recognized" citizen.

While Thomas was the town's most visible sign of homelessness, Capps said
his friend viewed himself instead as being "independent and self-employed."

Thomas' sister, Rebecca McDonald, said family members had offered places
for Thomas to stay but he would never accept.

"His family welcomed him and we did what we could, but he lived the way he
wanted to," said McDonald, who spent the day greeting people as they
stopped by to offer their condolences.

Still, she said, her brother would stop by frequently to visit her and his
mother, who still live in town.
We'd get together and talk about old times," she said.

McDonald said her brother was born in Morehead City and lived here most of
his life, though there was a period of time when he left the area and
family members are not sure where he was.

Some people said they had heard that Thomas was a veteran, but that could
not be substantiated by the Carteret County Veteran Services Office

Veteran Services Officer Hank Gotard said he has been in contact with
Veteran Affairs but it could not be confirmed by Thomas' name or social
security number that he had served. Nor was his family aware of him serving
in the military.

A memorial service will be held for Days at 7 p.m. Thursday at United
Pentecostal Church.


**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior
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educational purposes only.**

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