Today we pause to remember friends who have died this year. There have been so many. Our hearts are heavy, but we are grateful to have been able to share a leg of the journey with them. They have each shaped us and changed us, and we carry them on in our hearts and in our work for dignity and justice. Rest in peace & rest in power, dear friends.
Clyde moved to Nashville from the northeastern U.S. and lived on the streets of Nashville for years. He had a sharp analysis of issues of homelessness, housing, and mass incarceration and spoke on a panel with us at the Downtown Library about the criminalization of homelessness. Clyde was well-loved by many who took him into their hotel rooms and apartments. There are countless stories of Clyde standing up for others, helping them, and breaking up fights. He was an advocate and peacemaker at heart and we were thankful to share part of his journey with him. Shortly before the holidays in 2014, he went back home to Virginia where he was hit by a car. Clyde is missed and we will always remember the laughs and conversations we shared with him and the impact he had on so many. – Lindsey
Timothy Waggoner passed away on February 1, 2015 at the age of 50. He was a Nashville native from a large and loving family. He struggled with his health for many years and was faithfully cared for by his partner, Bob, until the time of his death. Tim loved mischief and cats. He was celebrated in the end when his whole family gathered to tell stories about him and release colorful ballons into the sky. He was wheelchair bound in life but finally set free. We give thanks for his friendship. –Lauren
Sally Herz, “Babygirl,” dear and devoted partner to Woody Nell for 45 years, and friend to many, died on February 24th. Sally was independent and loving, with a sharp sense of humor, a love of fishing, simple pleasures, and a keen zest for life. At her time of death, she and Woody had been in housing together for about a year. He cared for her faithfully and tenderly until the end. She will be missed by us all. – Samuel
I met Robert McMurtry in the summer of 2012. We weren’t fast friends because he was always trying to hide from me when I first started visiting his camp. But there was something about his eyes. So I pursued him. Robert had a lot going on. We started where we were – in an abandoned, flooded out trailer park. Over the next few months we worked on his health, addiction problems, and housing. In June of 2013 he was one of the first two people housed in our “How’s Nashville: 200 people in 100 Days” campaign. Later, he was featured on 60 Minutes when Anderson Cooper interviewed him about his experience of being unhoused. His story helped share, on a national platform, a way of life that often goes unnoticed. A little less than 2 years after getting housed, Robert passed away from liver failure. It was fast. I was glad he didn’t struggle long. I’m also glad that he had built a community for himself that helped him get through every day – which included helping at our Resource Shelters. I’m thankful for this kind and funny man in my life. I learned a lot from Robert in our short 3 years together. –Ingrid
Debra Johnson passed away on April 6th, 2015, at the age of 49. She was born and raised in Michigan then moved to Nashville, where she spent about ten years without housing. In 2014, she moved into her own apartment in Madison, shortly after a diagnosis of cancer. She is survived by her father and stepmother, Ed and Shirley Krieg, her son, Justin, grandson, Evan, and her five siblings. Debra enjoyed singing karaoke at downtown honky tonks and doing jigsaw puzzles. She was fiercely independent and real, and underneath her guarded exterior was a tender heart and a friendship that meant the world to me. She was unlike anyone else I’ve ever known. Whether she realized it or not, she shined on us and will be deeply missed. – Lauren
“Alabama” was a main-stay on the streets of East Nashville for over a decade. Because he had trouble walking and refused to be confined to a wheelchair, he pushed a shopping cart all over town. He collected cans for spare change and drank alcohol to numb his physical and emotional pain. Everyone on the eastside loved and respected Alabama and has stories about how he helped them at one point or another. He was arrested over 360 times, mostly for petty things like trespassing, and he desperately wanted off the streets but was unsure how he would find a place. We began working with him and got him into an apartment, but his struggles continued. He ended up moving out of his apartment and to a hotel across the street where he died. In his last 6 months, Alabama wasn’t arrested once and his friends surrounded him. He had Irish in his blood and died from physical health complications on St. Patrick’s Day. We will always remember him as fiercely determined, relentlessly stubborn, surprisingly caring, and as a dear friend who always made us laugh. – Lindsey
We knew Danny Costello was sick when we met him. He was living in a camp on the eastside of town where he was surrounded with drama and fighting. Danny was quiet and loved fishing and going to Shelby Park, but he struggled with addiction issues. He had a hard time claiming his own self-worth and forgiving himself for past circumstances and mistakes. We met him through our emergency winter shelters and we started working on his housing. Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and given 6 months to live. He was beside himself with grief and so fearful that he would die alone under a bridge. He moved into his own apartment in February and had a stable place to rest and be with his friends during the last months of his life. Even though his last months were filled with hospital visits and more drama, Danny passed in the hospital surrounded by family. We are thankful that Danny is no longer in pain and pray that he is surrounded by the nature and wildlife that filled him with peace and awe. – Lindsey