By Alex Grabtree
One of the Knights of the Roundtable has fallen in combat against the establishment. Chief died on July 2001 in an abandoned building on Cedar Avenue at the old Westinghouse Warehouse. Chief was one of the residents of Camelot, and was a part of the vigil to save the building. Chief in fact was the individual who came up with name “Camelot” for the building on Chester Avenue at East 48th Street. Chief was in his late 30s and had many names that he supplied to the world including Timothy John Brown, Chris Hermann, and Preston Lee Ross.
He left no footprints for the world, but was well known in the homeless community as Chief. He did not ask for shelter or vouchers or much help at all. He took a meal and a shower but did not cost the community much else. Grapevine readers will remember Chief as the squatter on Carnegie Ave. next to Mc Donald’s at East 31st Street. He and another homeless person drew media attention when they refused to move their shanty stopping the construction of a Taco Bell that never did materialize.
Chief then moved to Camelot and reinvigorated a community that refused to enter the shelters and wanted to be left alone by society. His comrades at Camelot said that Chief believed in traditional Indian culture. He claimed that he had taken classes at Harvard, and he had a significant drinking problem.
When he opened his shanty on Carnegie, I would stop to make sure that he was all right in the cold Cleveland winter. He often forgot my name, but was always willing to talk. He became very sick while on Carnegie and he refused treatment. Finally, we convinced his dormitory friends and neighbors to pressure him to go to the hospital. He spent a couple of weeks in the hospital, but that winter left him scarred and weaker.
The next time that I saw him was at one of the all day service fairs called the Stand Down when he was nursing a would after cutting himself while cooking outside. He was looking for a doctor, because the hospital had released him with stitching and bandages that needed changing. The cooking mishap took place at Camelot, and took Chief out of the rotation as cook. When Camelot was lost he accepted his fate and moved on to find another building to occupy.
The coroner has yet to rule on a cause of death. His body was ravaged from the effects of prolonged alcohol abuse. He did have some trauma to his body, but that could be the result of his tough life. No family as stepped forward, and he is most likely headed for burial in potters field in Cuyahoga County. A Native American who bounded around town will leave the would have met and forgotten thousands. He never revealed much, but was one of the best listeners.
Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #49 August-September -2001