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Old 04-11-2004, 02:55 AM   #1
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Say Goodbye to Floyd

Folks in my line of work (assisted living for adults with developmental disabilities) know how attached you can get to the people we assist and serve. And when one passes away, the grief is great. I did not know this man personally, but know him from the street corners and yes, he is gonna be missed and my heart goes out to the people who have worked with him and know him as their friend.


Say goodbye to Floyd; prominent panhandler dies at age 45
Cheerful city icon waved from street corners for more than 20 years


By JOEL GAY
Anchorage Daily News

(Published: April 8, 2004)

Floyd Kaleak always had a smile for commuters. (Photo by Jim Lavrakas / Anchorage Daily News)

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Jesse Smith of the Office of Public Advocacy said Anchorage will miss Kaleak. (Photo by Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News)

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Click on photo to enlarge
Anchorage drivers have one less reason to smile. Floyd is dead.

For more than two decades, Floyd Kaleak, a mentally impaired panhandler with a wide smile, danced and waved at passing cars from street corners all over town. Some considered him a nuisance. Others called him an ambassador of good vibes, an Anchorage icon.

Wednesday morning, one of his caregivers found Kaleak dead, still seated in front of his television in the tidy white house he rented off East Third Avenue and Eagle Street. Kaleak, 45, appeared to have died of natural causes, Anchorage police said.

The news touched many at police headquarters, said spokesman Ron McGee. Though they had responded to dozens of calls involving Kaleak over the years, "I think officers here at APD felt some affection for Floyd," he said. "Someone here said he contributed to Anchorage in the only way he could. He made his mark."

Kaleak was born in Barrow to a large Inupiat family. But Floyd was different, his mother told the Daily News in 1987. He was a hyperactive child who couldn't speak well and who regularly wandered away from home, she said. She sometimes found him walking on the Arctic coast.

He spent much of his childhood in special homes and treatment centers. After moving into an adult care residential facility in Spenard, he started wandering the streets of Anchorage.

At first he just waved and smiled at passing cars, and wore a sign that said, "SAY HI TO FLOYD." Drivers responded with a hello, and soon by tossing him spare change.

Then Kaleak rewrote his sign: "PAY FLOYD."

The change poured in, according to Dave Woodin, a neighbor who befriended Kaleak.

"He had water jugs" -- office water-cooler size -- "filled with pennies, dimes, quarters, half dollars," Woodin recalled Wednesday. "He taped the outside (of the jugs) because they kept splitting because of all the weight."

Police tried to stop Kaleak, but their warnings had little effect, Woodin said. "He just moved to another corner. It didn't dawn on him that walking out in front of a car was dangerous."

But after Kaleak learned that panhandling was illegal, he changed his sign once again: "UP TO YOU. PAY FLOYD."

He later got a state business license for his panhandling activities. It was never valid, but it made Kaleak something of a folk hero among the city's street people, according to lunchtime diners at the city's soup kitchen, Bean's Cafe, on Wednesday.

"He was very generous," said Xenofong Galaktionoff, eliciting nods of agreement from other cafe clients. "If you asked him for a couple of dollars he would give it to you."

Floyd wasn't a Beans regular, said cafe shift supervisor Jim MacKay, but he was a member of the Anchorage street community.

"He was a little sweetheart, just a neat little guy," said MacKay. "It's a damn shame life had to treat him in such a bad manner. He never seemed to get any breaks."

MacKay interrupted lunch Wednesday to announce the news. "All right, Beanies, listen up," he yelled over the din of forks and spoons on steel lunch trays. A friend had just died, he said, which quieted the crowd. "You younger ones might not know who I'm talking about," he continued, "but you've probably seen him on the street corners."

The name sent a shock wave through the crowd.

"Floyd," he said, and a cry of grief shot up. "Oh no," dozens of cafe regulars said simultaneously.

There was a moment of stunned silence as the news settled. Then they soon turned back to their lunch and their friends.

"I'll sure miss him," said Leona Noffsinger afterward. "I knew him on the streets for a long time."

Kaleak had been living alone successfully for several years, according to Jesse Smith, his guardian with the Office of Public Advocacy. He cooked and cleaned for himself, and seemed to be doing well. "Anchorage is going to have a void," Smith said.

Kaleak had a dark side, too. His court record includes complaints of criminal mischief, trespassing, assault and disorderly conduct, though police spokesman McGee said Kaleak hadn't been a subject on any police investigation for several years.

But most Anchorage residents will remember Floyd fondly, as the guy with the goofy smile, bouncing up and down and waving at a busy intersection, said neighbor Ben Latham.

"If you were driving and having a bad day and you'd see Floyd waving from the side of the road, it cheered you up," said Latham. "I think Anchorage is going to miss Floyd."

http://www.adn.com/front/story/4943784p-4872556c.html
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Old 04-11-2004, 09:21 PM   #2
Ugh. As. If.
 
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Old 04-12-2004, 03:59 PM   #3
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A touching story.
A touching life.
A touching soul.
I am sure he will be missed.
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