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This Winter Leaves Some Frozen in Time

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It’s a cold winter this year in Michigan, and the rest of the world can tell by the number of news reports regarding people who have frozen to death.

First came the report of the Sumpter Township man who froze to death in his truck. Described as a recluse, the man had taken to living in his truck because his house was inhabitable. He was warming the truck's interior with a space heater powered by a generator. The cab door was open, and six inches of snow was found on the man. Had some salvage workers not happened by and found him frozen, and his dogs starved to death, it may have been spring before anyone discovered him.

Last week brought the tale of an elderly Bay City man who froze to death in his own home. He had to neglected to pay his utility bill. The utility company then put a limiter on his house to restrict the flow of electricity. The man, a 93-year-old World War II veteran, was without known close relatives.

He may have been suffering from dementia, but he wasn’t destitute. Reports are now that he had more than enough money in the bank to pay. When they found him, the utility bill was on the kitchen table with the cash paper clipped to it.

This morning I opened up the Detroit News to find a photograph of a man who was found at the bottom of an elevator shaft in an abandoned warehouse. His torso was facedown under a block of ice, with just his legs sticking out. The warehouse is the home for many of the homeless in the city, and none of the squatters wanted to call the police.

Finally, someone called Charlie LeDuff at the News, and on Tuesday, he went to investigate. Yes, sure enough, there was a frozen man at the bottom of an elevator shaft. The reporter called the police on Tuesday, but got no response. He called again Wednesday afternoon, and finally the man was removed. Some estimates have the man as having been in that condition for a month or more.

Aside from the fact that the News decided to print this morbid photograph in the morning paper, these reports are disturbing in other untold ways. These stories gave me pause to think. Where were the support systems for these people? Why were no safety nets in place? Are the cracks so monstrously huge that these people could have fallen through?

Along the way to an infamous death, there must have been people who these men touched or who touched them, and I wonder, where were they? The only thing I can think of is that they thought someone else would cover or catch them.

If a person has money and/or connections, then anything is possible. The value of a human life seems to diminish if you happen to be a recluse, an old and lonely man, or a homeless person.

It’s sad that their fifteen minutes of fame came after death by freezing.

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About Joanne Huspek

I write. I read. I garden. I cook. I eat. And I love to talk about all of the above.
  • This is so painful. Our culture is so neglectful of the most vulnerable among us, especially the elderly. This just breaks my heart.

  • Dr. Juliann Mitchell, PhD


    This really is heartbreaking. A reminder of how much I have to be grateful for. May all of them rest in peace.


  • Lydia

    Powerful — a reminder that there are many among us not being seen or heard. Thank you for speaking for them.

  • Dr. Juliann Mitchell, PhD

    Congratulations on being chosen Best Culture Writer for the month on February. It is well-deserved. Enjoy!