Mourners will gather at site of a friendly, familiar face
- Peter Korn
- Portland Tribune - News
There are places in a city that become holy ground.
The people behind churches and synagogues and mosques would have us believe their buildings provide sanctuary. But in the life of a city, sanctuary is just as often marked by water-stained notes and bouquets.
Anita Floyd, 71, lived on the wooden bench at Southwest Alder Street and Sixth Avenue the last four years, lived there as much as she lived anyplace, passing out bits of her life to people who hardly knew her, in exchange accepting bits of theirs, and spare change if they wanted to give it.
Floyd was homeless most of the four years she spent in Portland before her death last week.
On Friday one small purple flower remained on the bench outside Kitchen Kaboodle. The day before there were bouquets and coins and notes with tape that just couldn't hold on through one more rain-filled night.
A single white lily had stood tall and straight, wedged into the bench's slats. People stood in front of the bench Thursday, and some of them cried. Others stood there just long enough to remember an elderly woman who seven days a week smiled and said hello to everybody.
Tom Ayres at the Star Park around the corner remembered that just two months ago the red-haired Floyd had confided, 'My birthday's next Saturday.' He brought her a card and necklace to mark the day.
Employees at Kitchen Kaboodle recall watching as strangers would strike up conversations with Floyd, who always sat at one end of her bench, as if the rest of the seating was an invitation.
'People would sit down and talk to her at lunch and give her half their sandwiches,' says Eileen McDaniel, store manager at Kitchen Kaboodle.
McDaniel also remembers the young man who took the memorial lily off the bench Thursday and walked away with it, and the city Clean and Safe patrol officer who chased the man two blocks and made him put the flower back.
Floyd was a panhandler, though barely, holding her silver cup in a way that said she was willing to accept money but unwilling to make it an issue.
'One time I loaned her some money,' says Virginia Howard, manager at the Oregon Health and Science University behavioral health clinic down the street. 'And she paid it back. Another time I loaned her money, and she wasn't able to pay me back and she told me. And she never asked for money after that.'
Two weeks ago Floyd suffered a massive heart attack right at home, on her bench. The paramedics revived her, but Floyd never made it out of the hospital.
A memorial service will be held for Floyd at her bench at 2 p.m. Wednesday.