MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Hundreds poured in to honor an unsuspecting St. Paul hero Tuesday. Mike “Bones” Hartzell was known as the steward of Rice Street.

The Vietnam vet chose to live on the streets. His impact was large — and so was his funeral.

It was a most appropriate location: Bradshaw Funeral Home. On the street where he lived his life, hundreds gathered to mark his death.

Anne Crist is a funeral director at Bradshaw, “He’s just a steward of the neighborhood, community; he wanted to take care of everybody.”

Now, they’re taking care of him. The funeral home he slept near helped donate services.

“This is a loyal neighborhood and he’s the center of that for sure,” Crist said.

After leaving Vietnam, the Army vet chose to live on the streets. He also chose to meticulously groom them as a thank you to those who offered food.

“Always tried to offer him money. He would never take my money, always had something good to tell me. ‘Keep your head up,’ he would always see me with my head down on Rice Street.”

A speaker at Bones service said, “It’s like you first meet Bones and you think ‘This guy must need my help.’ And then before you know it, and before you know it, he’s helping you.”

Bones’ family listened as the praise poured in. His sister Annette Walters says, “It’s been completely overwhelming that the community has embraced him so much, the love that’s there. I don’t think we realized how big this would ever be.”

They say he was a man with no home, few words and many actions, “You really don’t have to have the big house and everything to make an impact on a community because he has made a huge impact on this Rice Street community. It’s amazing.”

The honors will continue for Mike “Bones” Hartzell. He will be laid to rest Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. at Fort Snelling. Taps will be played and there will be a 21 gun salute,

Bones’ family says they tried to get him off the streets for many years, but Rice Street was where he always wanted to be.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield