[Note: On Saturday, May 2, three days after this column was published, Charles Joyner died.]
Some call him the “unofficial Fort Worth greeter” because he’s often seen sitting in his wheelchair at the corner of Third and Houston streets waving to people in their cars and chatting with passersby.
For more than 20 years, Charles Joyner has been as much of a fixture in Sundance Square as any business there.
Many people know him. Often as they rush to their offices, restaurants or retail shops, they will pause for a moment to visit with him.
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Some bus drivers honk their horns to acknowledge the man they see almost daily outside Reata restaurant.
A double amputee who lost in legs in 1988 while trying to hop a freight train, Joyner has had his share of troubles, but somehow he continues to keep smiling and keep greeting.
In January 2012, I saw two police officers confront him and issue a ticket. After I went through municipal court records and talked with Joyner, it seemed to me he was being harassed by police.
They continued to ticket him for “begging” even though he never asks anyone for money.
There are people, of course, who hand him cash as they walk past but, as I wrote at the time, it should not be a crime for him to accept it.
In one three-year period, Joyner received more than 50 citations, 43 of them for “begging” or loitering with the intent to beg. Friends in the legal profession volunteered to help him resolve some of those issues.
Joyner has been arrested several times, he said, mostly for failing to appear in court because he didn’t get the notices of his hearings.
“They should just leave this man alone,” I wrote, and there were plenty of people who agreed with me.
I recently heard from a couple of his friends — a Tarrant County judge and attorney Kevin Clark — who contacted me to share some more troubling news about Joyner.
“Unfortunately, he has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,” Clark wrote in an email message. “We are trying to get the word out so that those of us who treasure him can wish him well.”
Clark said they also were collecting video tributes to share with Joyner.
While Joyner says he’s “doing the best that I can do,” he admits that his “whole life turned around” when he was told of the diagnosis late last month.
The cancer is inoperable, he said.
“The doctors have nothing they can do for me,” he said, noting that he refuses to undergo chemotherapy.
“I’m just going to put it in the Lord’s hands,” he said.
Joyner, who said he is now staying at the Presbyterian Night Shelter, can often be seen making his way down East Lancaster Avenue headed for downtown and his special corner.
He still can be seen there most days around lunchtime, doing his usual greeting of friends and strangers.
When I asked him Tuesday if he needed anything, he said, “No. I got plenty of friends and I got God.”
My guess is that during the coming days a lot of those friends will make a special effort to visit him and wish him well as he battles this disease.
While I haven’t seen police citing him lately, I would hope they never bother him again.
Bob Ray Sanders’ column appears Sundays and Wednesdays.