A couple of years ago, on the day she was moving into Sundance West apartments with her husband, Christi Cameron became friends with Charlie Joyner, who was in a wheelchair and spent many years greeting people daily at the corner of Third and Houston streets.
Cameron moved to Dallas a year ago, but she and Mr. Joyner continued to exchange text messages daily. In late March, after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he sent a message telling her, “You do so much for me, I wish I could do more for you.”
She said: “He took me under his wing and I took him under mine. I know he had a good spirit.”
Mr. Joyner made everyone his friend. He smiled at passers-by. He never begged, but many gave him money and food. He always had a kind word.
Mr. Joyner died Saturday in hospice care in Fort Worth, moments after friends held a phone to his ear so he could hear from an estranged daughter from Nashville — and just after friends played him a recording of The Ballad of Charlie Joyner. He opened his eyes and smiled before taking his last breath, they said.
Not much is known about Mr. Joyner’s life.
Kevin Clark, an attorney who helped him over the years, said Mr. Joyner was born Oct. 8, 1950, in the Nashville area.
He was one of eight children, Cameron said, and all his siblings are believed to be dead. He graduated from high school, worked in construction and was a machinist at some point. He lost both legs in 1988 while trying to hop a freight train.
“The city of Fort Worth was his family,” Clark said. “There’s been so many miracles around his life and his passing. He went out on his own terms. He was really sick and in a lot of pain. It’s a blessing he went so fast.”
Mr. Joyner’s illness became known only last week. He was at his corner last Tuesday and was under hospice care by Thursday.
For more than 20 years, Mr. Joyner sat at the corner outside the Reata restaurant, in the heart of Sundance Square. He never worried and firmly believed that God would take care of him.
“Charlie was a truly beautiful man, as good a soul as I have ever had the privilege to know,” said Ed Bass, whose family developed Sundance Square. “He brightened countless days with his presence and his smile. I consider Charlie a true citizen of Sundance Square.
“We were lucky to have him spend his days with us, and I will have an empty place in my heart every time I walk past Third and Houston.”
Bo Mings, CEO of OfficeMindShare, moved his business into the Burk Burnett Building nearby in March and quickly became friends with Mr. Joyner.
“He’d wave and say, ‘It’s going to be a good day,’” Mings said. “I had breakfast with him a couple of weeks ago. He was telling me he was sick but said, ‘God’s got me.’ A life well-lived is a life worth living. Charlie did that. He has a legacy.”
The Rev. Eben Gourley, pastor of a now-defunct downtown church, said he turned to Mr. Joyner for insight, often referring to him in his sermons. Gourley said he often sat and talked with Mr. Joyner for an hour at a time.
“He was an example of grace, love and kindness,” Gourley said. “I saw him as a prophet. He was rough around the edges, but he always talked about his relationship with Christ. He never worried. I cared about him.”
Mr. Joyner lived at the Presbyterian Night Shelter on East Lancaster Avenue, sleeping mostly outside.
Mike Bell, a shelter security guard, has gathered Mr. Joyner’s belongings — some clothes, personal items and old photos — and put them in two duffel bags and locked them in storage.
“You just loved Charlie,” Bell said. “He didn’t have much and that didn’t matter to him.”
Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727
Noon, May 14: The location downtown has not been determined. Mr. Joyner’s body was to be cremated.