TERRE HAUTE —
When Freddie Poore met you, he never forgot you.
Even after not seeing you for years, he could greet you by name just like he last saw you yesterday. And he’d remember all your family members’ names, too.
Poore’s remarkable memory for people had the added gift of making him memorable to a lot of people as well. So when the 61-year-old Poore died May 21 after being injured in a fire at Garfield Towers apartments in Terre Haute, his passing affected people all over the city who knew him as a gentle soul with a kind, sharing spirit.
“Fred, he just loved people,” said Mike Stoehr, who first met Poore in 1987 when they both attended the same local church. “And when he made a connection to someone, it was important to him, and he didn’t forget that.”
When Stoehr and Poore reconnected a while back, after 20 years of not seeing each other at church, Poore walked up to shake hands, called Stoehr by name and asked about his three children, recalling their names, too.
It was amazing to Stoehr, but his memory for names and faces was a characteristic of Poore that everyone who knew him knew about.
Poore had his challenges in life. Described by some folks who knew him as autistic, he was self-sufficient in his daily living — he was employed by McDonald’s, rode the city bus daily, and had his favorite restaurants around town where the staff and customers greeted him like family and shared special occasions.
For Poore’s 60th birthday, the men who gather for Christian fellowship each Saturday morning at the Coffee Grounds on Wabash Avenue decided to get him a cake to celebrate.
“We asked him what kind of cake he wanted,” Tim Miller recalled, “and he said ‘a big cake’.”
The other thing Poore requested, Miller said, was a new shirt and tie to wear to church.
Miller and more than 20 other men in the Saturday Morning Journaling Group met as usual at the Coffee Grounds on Saturday, and Poore was not far from their minds.
In fact, a poster with the message “He knew Our Name” was laid out to receive messages about Fred from the men’s group.
James Cochran, assistant pastor at River of Life Church in West Terre Haute, planned to take the poster to Poore’s family during Saturday evening’s funeral visitation.
“We’re just letting the family know how much he meant to us,” Cochran said as members of the group added their names and notes.
“I would love it if all my congregation demonstrated the love that he demonstrated,” Cochran said of Poore. “It would make our congregation that much better.”
The men’s group began meeting at the downtown coffee shop in 2006, said Sam Atkinson. It wasn’t long after that Poore began joining the group, gathered around various tables discussing biblical teachings.
“He never interrupted,” Miller said. “He just wanted to sit and listen and learn about the Lord.”
“Somebody always slid a chair up for him,” Atkinson added.
“His morning ritual was to come in and shake hands,” Kris Wharton chimed in.
Poore’s friendly habits are an example that everyone can emulate, Miller said.
“How important is that? To truly show you love someone, just remember their name,” Miller said.
At the McDonald’s restaurant at Third and Poplar streets, Poore was a familiar face that will be missed.
Shift manager Patty Watkins said she knew Poore for six years, first meeting him when she worked at the McDonald’s on Lafayette Avenue, where he washed dishes. He was a long-time employee of the fast-food company, she said.
“If he saw you anywhere in town, he would stop and say hi,” Watkins said.
His job at the Poplar Street restaurant was to clean up the grounds every day for a couple of hours.
“You could go out there and you wouldn’t see a drop of trash when he was done,” co-worker Graham James said.
“It feels empty without him,” coworker Kaylee Tomey said, agreeing with fellow McDonald’s employee Billy Blackburn about Poore’s friendly nature. “You don’t have that person saying hi to you every day.”
At Garfield Towers in the Twelve Points neighborhood, residents of the apartment building continue to talk about the May 17 fire, and Poore.
“He was a really nice guy. Everyone liked him,” said Henry Hicks, who sat among a group of Garfield Towers residents Saturday morning at a picnic table in the shade.
Repairs being done to the sixth floor still have some residents of that floor displaced. They have been relocated to a nearby motel. The fire began in a sixth-floor lounge area of the Terre Haute Housing Authority building. Terre Haute Police are still investigating the cause of the fire.
Police have indicated that Poore, a resident of the sixth floor, was not believed to be involved in causing the fire, but he was injured in the fire and had to be rescued from the lounge area by firefighters who responded to the scene. His injuries led to health complications that resulted in his transfer to an Indianapolis hospital, where he later died.
As word of Poore’s death spread last week, friends shared stories of their time with him.
At Cackleberries restaurant, Poore was a daily visitor.
“We spoiled him rotten,” said Donetta West, a waitress at the Seventh and Poplar restaurant.
Poore came in to the restaurant every day, she said, and he had his own stool at the counter — third from the right.
He frequently ordered a Diet Pepsi, but his favorite treat was a slice of pie.
The restaurant staff had a good time teasing with Poore, manager Mufide Topcu said, but he was never the point of the teasing. West said the teasing was usually reserved for Cackleberries front man Tim Popoff.
“I taught him to say, ‘Timmy, I’m gonna have your job!’ One day he said it, and the place just roared,” West recalled.
Poore also made it a point to tell his Cackleberries family about his 60th birthday as it approached March 26 last year. The staff had a cake and ice cream to celebrate with him.
They also included Poore in their employee Christmas party.
“We bought him honey buns and chips,” Dawn McCalister said. “He loved his sweets.”
They also got him dress socks, a hat, gloves, a Cackleberries shirt and gift certificates, among other things.
“We had to help him carry all his gifts up to his apartment,” McCalister said.
But Poore was not one to only receive gifts from others. In addition to his daily smiles and handshakes, he also gave from the heart.
“In his own way, he was one of the smartest people we knew,” West said. “And he was a reminder of pure, innocent love every day.”
West said that Poore asked her recently why she was feeling a little blue, and she told him that it was Mother’s Day and she was missing her own mother.
“He said, ‘You’ll see her again in Heaven,’ like, you silly,” West said, smiling through damp eyes.
It was a sad day around the restaurant when the staff learned that Poore had died.
“I don’t wanna get attached to anyone else,” West said. “I just cried and cried.”
Popoff agreed that the Cackleberries staff feel like they have lost a member of their family.
“We loved him,” he said. “Everybody here loved him.”
Funeral services for Freddie Poore were conducted Saturday evening at Mattox-Ryan Funeral Home in Terre Haute. Burial will be at Bethesda Memorial Park in West Terre Haute at a later date.
Donations can be made to Northside Wesleyan Church in Poore’s memory.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.
TERRE HAUTE —
When Freddie Poore met you, he never forgot you.
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