By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — There was an outpouring of support Monday in response to the death of one of St. Paul’s most famous citizens. “Bones,” as he was known, died at the age of 71.

He was a homeless Vietnam Veteran who called Rice Street home.

For most people in St. Paul’s north end, Rice Street is the way they get to or from home. For him, the street itself was home. Joe Gavnik grew up on Rice Street.

“He was Bones, a good guy, and everyone, everyone here knew him – everyone,” said Joe Gavnik, who grew up on Rice Street.

Bones, whose real name is Mike Hartzell, lived on Rice Street for more than 40 years.

“I probably knew him since 1970 and he never asked anyone for a dime ever,” Gavnik said.

On a few extremely cold nights, he agreed to spend the night on the floor at Dar’s Double Dip or other businesses.

“I was pretty blessed that he liked strawberry shakes cause then I got to be one of his buddies,” Kevin Barrett said.

Kevin Barrett and other Rice Street business owners shared food with Bones and he shared a laugh.

Bones joked once that he was “moving south.” When Kevin inquired further, Bones said, “to University Avenue.”

Bones would rarely take help, but he often gave it.

“In the summertime, always we saw him cleaning the streets, both sides. And he’s a very nice person.  Quiet person, he’s a very nice person,” Suzy Junore said.

Locals say he would spend hours meticulously grooming the sidewalks. It seems the man who had the least to give, gave the most.

“He was a rock star, he was the Rice Street rock star,” Gavnik said. “He really was special, you got it, case closed.”

Local business owners are hoping to raise money to have a bench in Bones’ honor. It will, of course, be located on Rice Street.

Bradshaw Funeral Home on Rice Street will be handling funeral arrangements. There will be a service next Monday, and more details will be announced Tuesday.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

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