TERRE HAUTE —
Ideally, a first-time visitor to Terre Haute will spot the activities at the corner of Seventh and Poplar around dusk Saturday night and wander over, just to satisfy curiosity.
A traveler pulls a Chevy Malibu into the parking lot of Cackleberries Restaurant, climbs out and begins this conversation with one of the local folks participating …
Newcomer: So, what’s all this?
Hautean: A candlelight vigil in memory of Fred Poore.
Newcomer: Who was Fred Poore? Was he famous? Heroic?
Hautean: Fred was one of the friendliest people you’d ever want to meet. He shook everyone’s hand. He remembered everyone’s name. Your walk of life didn’t matter; Fred simply enjoyed making new friends and greeting old ones, every day. A kind and gentle soul. Some of his friends described him as autistic. He was self-sufficient, worked and got around on his own.
Newcomer: What happened to him?
Hautean: It’s heartbreaking. Fred died May 21 from his injuries in a fire a few days earlier at the apartment complex where he lived, Garfield Towers. He was just 61 years old, and much younger at heart.
Newcomer: Why is this going on here? Was this spot special?
Hautean: Yes and no. Fred loved coming to this restaurant; he rode the city buses here every day. He smiled when he came in the door, but always first said “Hi” to the kitchen crew before sharing handshakes and hellos with the managers and waitresses. He’d always order a Diet Coke, and occasionally a piece of pie, and enjoyed kidding around with the staff. There’s a portrait of him, given by his family, hanging on the wall in the restaurant now.
But Fred became a familiar face in lots of local spots, like McDonald’s where he worked, and The Coffee Grounds, his church, and other locales. Any place turned special when Fred walked in.
Newcomer: Sounds like a great guy. It’s cool that your people in your town are paying tribute to someone with those qualities.
Hautean: It would’ve been hard not to like Fred. It should be even harder for Terre Haute to forget him.
Newcomer: Thanks to you and this vigil, I won’t forget Fred, and I’d never even met the man. Lord knows, the world could use a few more smiles and sincere handshakes.
Whether that particular scenario unfolds or not, the vigil in Fred Poore’s memory — scheduled for 9:15 p.m. Saturday in the Cackleberries Restaurant parking lot — represents Terre Haute’s best side. It shows a city willing to remember someone who never scored a touchdown, or won an election, or made a million bucks. All Fred did was make people smile.
Anyone is invited to attend the vigil, said Cackleberries waitress and co-organizer Dawn McCalister, and that fits Fred’s legacy. He excluded no one from his kind-heartedness.
McCalister — a 39-year-old mother, West Terre Haute resident and Dresser native — had a simple reason for planning the vigil.
“I just felt like the Lord put it on my heart,” she said. “I hope [Fred’s] looking down at us and sees how many lives he touched, because he did.”
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.