ELGIN, Ill. (CBS) — After a tragic life, an Elgin man’s children say they at least want their father to have the kind of funeral he wanted.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports, they are trying to raise the money for a proper funeral for Richard Gibbons, who was killed last month when someone dropped a fire extinguisher on him from 40 feet above.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports
Gibbons, 60, was a Vietnam-era military veteran, a gifted carpenter, and a father of three.
But after alcoholism took its toll, he ended up living on the streets.
While Gibbons was sleeping in an alley on Aug. 11, Elgin police say Yancarlo Garcia, 23, of Chicago, tossed a fire extinguisher from the top of the Fulton Street Parking Deck, 245 Fulton St.
Gibbons was found with serious injuries to his abdomen and he was taken to St. Joseph Provena Hospital in Elgin before he was transferred to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge.
He died at the hospital on Sept. 4. Meanwhile, bond for Garcia later set at $1 million.
But three weeks after his death, there has been no funeral for Gibbons. The Veterans Administration would pay for a casket and burial in a veterans’ cemetery, but Gibbons’ children say he always wanted to be cremated and to have his ashes kept in Elgin.
Gibbons had two daughters — Melissa Gibbons, who is now 35 and works at an Elgin bank, and Heather Wicker, who is now 31, works in a hospital and is described by her mother, Colleen Kapaun, as “a volleyball mom.” He also had a son, Ricky Gibbons, now 21.
Melissa said she stayed in contact with her dad through those tough times.
“He would come to my house and take a shower, and I’d feed him and try to persuade him to stay with me. I told him he was always welcome,” she said. “But he was very careful not to overstay his welcome, and pretty soon he would move out again” — to the streets.
Then on Aug. 11, her father called and said he was at Lutheran General Hospital in after being attacked in the downtown Elgin alley.
“For about one day he could talk to us,” Melissa said.
Richard told his family that he had been denied entry to the Elgin PADS shelter that night, likely because he had been drinking, so he had to sleep in the alley. He was awakened by the sound of laughter at the top of the parking garage, and soon afterward, authorities say Garcia grabbed a 2-foot-long red fire extinguisher mounted on a pillar and threw it down toward the man 40 feet below.
The gravity-accelerated force of the fire extinguisher smashed into Richard’s abdomen, rupturing organs and cracking bones.
Now, Kapaun, Gibbons’ longtime partner, and daughter Melissa need $1,700 for a basic memorial service and cremation.
In his sober times, Melissa says, her father was “very involved with the homeless community, working to make their lives better.” Most Fridays, she said, he would work with a program at the Elgin Salvation Army corps called Street Outreach. She said organizer Anthony Siete and other participants in the program passed the hat and raised $600.
Aiming for the other $1,100, she said, family and friends will hold a fundraiser at 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, at Cheeseburger in Paradise in the Algonquin Commons shopping center along Randall Road in Algonquin. For a $10 admission ticket, supporters can get free food. Prizes will be raffled off, and the restaurant will hold a karaoke contest. Tickets can be bought at the door or ordered in advance by calling (847) 708-9875.
Melissa said anything above the cremation expense will be divided among Street Outreach, the Elgin soup kitchen program and buying winter coats for the homeless.
The Elgin Courier-News contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire.