Apr. 19th, 2011

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There were mourning doves on my windowsill a few days back. They looked in at me, and cooed; I cooed back. Then I went for the camera and they flew away.

There was an article in the paper the other day about a body being discovered in a Seven Hills backyard. I alway read Seven Hills news, since I grew up there and especially loved juicy stories about people I might have known. The article mentioned the body may have been a homeless man, and that no one had seen him out riding his bicycle recently. That hit me - could it be Joe? I felt a weird flop in my stomach.

Last night, the news identified the body as Joe Kopp. Joe was older than me, and his parents and mine were friends through the church. Joe was "slow", "different", "odd", but never called retarded; as an adult I'd guess high-functioning autism and schizoid type stuff. He rode around Seven Hills and up and down Broadview Road on an old, battered but well-maintained bike with homemade rearview mirrors - the first mirrors I'd ever seen on a bike. If Joe saw you, he'd have to stop and talk. He was funny, and kind, and often annoying, but never mean. I hung out at Pleasant Valley Shopping Center, and often saw Joe there.
One of the strangest things about Joe was that the bullies never picked on him. The tough guys in the neighborhood always seemed to look out for him, teaching the younger bullies that Joe was to be left alone - they could throw gravel at any other weirdo riding a bike (like, me, like my little brother) but never at Joe.

Olga Kopp, his mom, was one of those no-nonsense, organizing women who ran the Ladies Guild, and after she died I guess the safety net was gone for Joe. I hear he was more-or-less homeless for the past ten years, being taken in by acquaintances whenever needed. I've read a dozen little eulogies on Facebook, from people who don't normally go out of their way to post anything serious. I've found out Joe saved up and donated his money to the homeless, even when he was sleeping wherever someone let him. I'm pleased and surprised by the outpouring of grief and outrage and memories coming from the community. I'm a little surprised by my own deep feelings about someone who I haven't seen in a decade, someone I was never close to. I guess it's because Joe was a childhood fixture, part of growing up in Seven Hills. Now, like Manners and the muscle cars, the empty lots and the woods, Joe is gone but not forgotten, and part of my memories and stories of growing up in Seven Hills.

I'll be watching the news for more on this. Why did someone, possibly the guy who took him in, shoot him and bury him? I can only hope we find out, and that whoever did it gets justice.

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