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“One person is too many”: Tulsa shoemaker found dead under the East Tulsa flyover after days of cold weather

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Andy Nelson works on a boot in a shoe repair shop. Nelson’s daughter Melisa Loeza said it was impossible to know how many clients he served in Tulsa over the decades, but he hardly ever repaired his own shoes. “Whenever you’re working on everyone else’s stuff. you don’t like keeping up with your own, ”she said.

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Tulsa police said a man’s body was found under an overpass near 41st Street and Mingo Road on Saturday. The family identified the man as Andy Nelson, 63, a Tulsa shoemaker suffering from homelessness.

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Andy Nelson works with his family’s sheep in Arizona. Nelson’s eldest daughter, Melisa Loeza, said the photo was last taken when Nelson traveled back to the state for a sibling’s funeral. Provided

Andy Nelson spent many days as a father instilling a heart and compassion for the homeless in his children.

Three days after his body was found under an overpass in east Tulsa, his grown daughter wondered what more could have been done.

“It wasn’t as if he didn’t have a family to take care of it,” said Melisa Loeza tearfully on Tuesday. “It’s not like nobody tried to help him. We tried again and again. “

Nelson, a 63-year-old shoemaker, was found under the Broken Arrow Expressway near 41st Street and Mingo Road around 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

His death marks the second of a homeless person the city has seen in freezing temperatures in the past two weeks. Although the doctor’s office has not yet determined the exact cause of death for either person, Loeza believes that her father’s death was due to exposure to the cold.

Friday’s low reached 1 degree and Saturday’s low reached 20 degrees, according to measurements by the Tulsa National Weather Service.

Even before the deadly weather set in, Loeza urged her father to take shelter.

“I told him the weather was going to be bad,” she recalled. I said, ‘I don’t want you out; it’s going to be cold. ‘”

She offered her house and even her trailer if he didn’t want to stay with her, she said, but he soon ended the call to catch a bus.

After some of her calls went straight to voicemail on the anniversary of her younger brother’s death, which her father’s spiral began, she knew something was wrong.

She spent the next few days wandering around in the ice trying to find it.

Nelson’s boss, concerned after hearing nothing from him for a few days, went to a place he knew he was visiting and found his body in a sleeping bag.

It was 1991 when Nelson’s only son, Andy Nelson Jr., was hit by a car while crossing a street and killed. The boy was 10 and Nelson was never the same, Loeza said.

“He had his own place until my brother died,” said Loeza. “And then he just started getting in and out. He would stay in motels. … He would just slip away. He would be there for a few days and then we wouldn’t find him. “

When asked once after his return where he had gone, his simple answer was: “Ah, I was just thinking,” Loeza recalls.

Nelson, a self-proclaimed loner, likes to be alone, Loeza said. He was born the youngest of 13 children in an Arizona family and grew up basically without parents, she said. His mother died while giving birth, and his father was 71 years old at the time and soon couldn’t look after him.

He tended a few family sheep before moving to Tulsa in his later teenage years and starting work at several shoe repair shops across town.

It was his wish to be buried near his mother in Arizona, Loeza said, and she is now raising funds to do just that.

Although he suffered from escalating depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia, Nelson was kind and generous, Loeza said; always ready to help someone else.

Since his death, she has heard from former employers and their families who thank them for all of his years of hard work.

And she remembers several times in her youth when her father took her and her siblings in with food, hats or gloves and traveled downtown to serve the homeless population.

“‘They treat these people like a celebrity because they have a story,'” she recalls. “‘They are just like you and me.'”

“When his mental faculties picked up, he returned to them,” she said. “He connected with them.”

Despite his many problems, Nelson sought help. He didn’t want to be a burden to anyone, said Loeza, and he took pride in being stubborn.

In the days following his death, Loeza said her main focus was on finding the money to bury him. But after that it will work on politics.

“When the temperatures get so low, we (the people) shouldn’t give that right,” she said of people who have chosen to be homeless. “What gives them this vibe to make them believe they are able to survive these temperatures?

“If we don’t keep our dogs outside … how do we allow people to stay outside? How is that legal?

“One person is too many. Two is too many. These two people will not die in vain. “

Featured Video: Mayor Updates Tulsans About The Range Of The Homeless In Dangerous Winter Weather

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Those interested in contributing to Nelson’s funeral expenses can do so at bit.ly/Nelsonfund.

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