Chicago’ Walking Man’ Dies At 75, 7 Months After Being Set On Fire Downtown!
After being set on fire in May while sleeping on the streets of downtown Chicago, Joseph Kromelis, a fixture known as “Walking Man,” passed away many months later.
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office reports that Kromelis, 75, passed on Sunday night due to heat burns. According to the office, which ruled the death a homicide, Kromelis, “Walking Man,” had been admitted to the hospital following the assault.
Police said that 27-year-old Joseph Guardia doused Kromelis in gasoline and set him on fire while resting under blankets on the 400 block of North Lower Wabash Avenue. Kromelis is easily recognized by his long, wavy white hair, mustache, and trademark coat. More than half of his body was severely burned from the assault.
By the end of June, Kromelis’ health had improved from critical to severe, suggesting that his recovery was happening quicker than previously anticipated by the authorities.
Guardia told Cook County officials that he only struck Kromelis because he was “mad,” without elaborating. Surveillance footage shows Guardia standing motionless over Kromelis’s “Walking Man,” body for 16 seconds. He then continued on foot to a nearby junction before coming back to pour gasoline over Kromelis’ head, according to the police. The upper body of Kromelis caught fire.
Guardia was charged with attempted murder and arson. Still, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office warned on Monday that more accusations could be brought after the investigations by the medical examiner and Chicago police are concluded.
According to court documents, Guardia is held without bond in Cook County Jail. He must return to court on January 19 for a hearing.
The “Walking Man” had been attacked twice in six years. In 2016, a person brandishing a baseball bat assaulted Kromelis. He spent several weeks in the hospital following the attack.
In response, the neighborhood came together to assist the local celebrity, raising more than $33,000 on a GoFundMe campaign to aid in his recovery. Following the incident on May 25, at least two GoFundMe accounts were started, with each garnering $5,000 for Kromelis.
Longtime downtown resident Janice Riggs organized the fundraiser after a bat assault. She claimed Kromelis was a steady, consoling presence in the community.
If you didn’t see him every few days, you should have known something was wrong, she claimed. He was merely a Chicagoan.
She claimed that despite having several brief interactions with him over the years, she didn’t have a close relationship with him. After his parents moved to Michigan in the 1960s, his sister-in-law, Linda Kromelis, told the Tribune in 2016 that he continued to live in Chicago despite family pressure to leave, even after he lost his apartment.
She explained, “It’s just his way of life.” “He enjoyed the city, going on walks, and hawking jewelry. Nothing is wrong with him. But we were concerned for him.
Only one of Kromelis’ siblings, she claimed, was still alive. The Tribune could not reach a relative on Monday.
A favorite of street photographers, Kromelis was known for his long, white mane, bristly mustache, and sharp sense of fashion. After striking up a conversation with him in 2018, Steve McKenzie took striking photographs of him since he considered him an “iconic” person in the city.
McKenzie added that it needs to end this way because you have such a difficult life and so many difficulties. But I am aware of his influence on others. In the end, it’s painful to say goodbye to him. He leaves behind a piece of Chicago that will never be forgotten.
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Over several decades, Randy Martens took pictures of Kromelis, including one from 1994 in which he posed on a bridge in the city wearing his signature white V-neck T-shirt underneath a handkerchief-accented sports coat.
Martens claimed that Kromelis’s “Walking Man,” initially resisted being a subject but eventually agreed after being offered $5 or $10 to act as a model.
He glanced; Martens said. “He exuded confidence. He had a broad stride. The hair was generally kept in decent condition. He was always handsome.
When Kromelis entered Victoria Engonopoulos’s life, his hair was completely black. She claimed to be a downtown resident and that she and he had several quick exchanges before getting to the point where he would always welcome her.
She stated, “He knew the city inside and out. “Like you, I was born and bred in Chicago. I got it. For him, this was his home. He found solace in the city and didn’t want to leave.
Riggs stated that after Kromelis’s “Walking Man,” passing, she was left with “bottomless despair,” echoing the sentiments of Engonopoulos and others.
She remarked, “He had such a difficult life in such a lovely city. Although I don’t believe many people thoroughly understood him, many did recognize him. When you saw him, it was simply a bright point in your day. I sincerely hope he is much cozier and happier, where his accomplishments will be recognized, and he will experience safety, comfort, and affection.