February 2, 2009

The Angel of Louisville, cyclist John Breaux, is killed.

My buddy Dave Rogers pointed this out to me yesterday, and said, you should blog this. Dave is bigger than me, so I assented. 


Every community has its angels. John Breaux, who spent his days opening doors for strangers and picking up roadside trash, was a local hero. Read here for his story. Or here for videos. Here for photos. Excerpt:


His shoes were filthy. His shirt was often torn. His hands were dirty and callused.

“But he was an angel,” Lori Haynes-Bright said Saturday of her brother-in-law, 57-year-old John Breaux, who was killed Friday after being hit on his bicycle by a driver who veered off U.S. 287. “He was put here to show the rest of us how we should be.”

Starting early Saturday, parked cars lined the highway where Breaux was hit and killed. Friends, acquaintances, and those who had only seen Breaux picking up garbage, brought balloons, flowers, pictures and crosses to the site where police say he died.

As the day went on, more and more make-shift memorials popped up in businesses around town, honoring the man who friends said looked rugged on the outside but was “all good” on the inside.

In the afternoon, dozens of community members gathered at Louisville’s City Hall to share memories of the man who many said has forever changed the way they live.

At 5 p.m., several hundreds of people congregated at the Albertsons along U.S. 287 and South Boulder Road, where Breaux volunteered for years, to say good-bye and thank you.

“It’s incredible that one person could have this kind of impact,” said Louisville Mayor Chuck Sisk. “He was our goodwill ambassador.”

Breaux was known around town for his constant care of the roadsides, businesses and community members. He regularly helped gas stations clear snow, spent hours picking up street garbage, and left flowers on friends’ porches.

Audrey Simpson, 43, of Louisville, said Breaux left flowers outside her home on several occasions, and once brought her a candle.

“I just knew it was him,” she said. “It was always him.”

Breaux was a religious man, Simpson said, who would jump from church to church on Sunday mornings, depending on where the day took him. Many people called Breaux “Jesus,” mostly because he kept nothing for himself and dedicated all of his talents, possessions and time to others.

“He would open the door for you, it didn’t matter who you were or your age or gender,” Simpson said. “He was a kind and loving soul.”

Kristina Pattison, 20, of Broomfield, said she came to know Breaux through his smile and familiar presence at all her favorite hot spots around town.

“He truly was an angel,” Pattison said. “He knew things.”

While standing near the roadside memorial Saturday, Bev Sanders, 43, recalled the day Breaux helped her teenage daughter pick out a Valentine’s Day card for her boyfriend. Breaux insisted the card be “cute” and include hearts and bears, Sanders said.

“John knew my daughter well,” she said.

Another of Sanders’ daughters, Alex Sanders, 22, said the first thing she thought about when learning of Breaux’s death was a napkin he gave her nine years ago.

“My best friend and I were at Taco Bell for lunch, and John walked up and gave us a note he had written on a napkin,” Sanders said. “It said, ‘Jesus is going to come to save us all.’ We said, ‘Wow, that’s awesome.’”

On Friday, Sanders called her friend and asked if she remembered the note. She did. In fact, Sanders said, her friend still has it.

“And that was nine years ago,” she said.

Sanders, who made a sign for Breaux that now hangs near the site of his death, said she wants to be clear on something: “We never called him John,” she said. “Everyone I know calls him Jesus.”

It’s a sentiment that was shared dozens of times Saturday evening during a large gathering at the Lafayette Albertsons — just one of the many businesses Breaux was known to volunteer at on his daily circuit across town.

Many mourners made their way to a microphone set up in the parking lot after walking past the site of the accident, which was overflowing with piles of flowers, signs and tearful onlookers.

Albertsons employees recalled Breaux’s playful and kind nature, saying he’d often roll a tennis ball at the feet of unsuspecting workers, bring sodas to them on breaks and wash windows.

Workers from the Coal Creek Bowling Center in Lafayette said Breaux loved the sport, calling every day without fail to find out if there were bowling lanes. Once, they said, he bowled a perfect game.

But for every person who knew Breaux well, it seemed an equal number of people gathered Saturday who knew him simply for his constant gestures of kindness.

“He just waved,” Louisville resident Loretta Edge said. “He would wave at everyone. He never asked for anything.”

She said that single gesture became part of her family’s daily routine.

“It makes you feel like this is our home,” she said.

Her 11-year-old son, Skylar, was in tears.

“He was a huge part of the town, and now he’s not going to be here and it’s sad,” he said.

Terry Maschka, a Lafayette police patrol supervisor, said Breaux was a favorite among officers for nearly a decade.

“It’s just hard to believe he’s not going to be here anymore,” said Maschka, who went to the scene of the accident Friday and immediately knew it was his friend’s bike on the side of the road.

Others called Breaux a “true gentleman” who would run to open doors for people, a man who would give anything just to be helpful and a kind spirit with the “face of Jesus.”

Daniel Prowell, 32, of Louisville, said Breaux’s attitude and generosity consistently left him in awe and with a smile.

“If each city had just one person like him,” he said, “the world would be a better place.”


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