SATURDAY, JANUARY 31, 2009

He has a name…and its Johnnie Redding…thank you Charlie LeDuff…for following this

Saturday, January 31, 2009
Family: Frozen man was our Johnnie
Relatives identify body found in elevator shaft as River Rouge native, 56.
Charlie LeDuff / The Detroit News
DETROIT — The dead man at the bottom of the elevator shaft has been identified.For the record, his name was Johnnie. Johnnie Redding.Redding
died about a month ago, authorities surmise, when he was pushed or fell
down the shaft inside an abandoned Detroit warehouse and came to rest
in 5 feet of water. The weather turned blue, and Redding would become
encased in a vault of ice, his shoes and shins protruding.The
world was shocked to learn that people knew that a man lay below and
yet carried on with their own games and grievances, not bothering to
inform the authorities. Eventually, someone with a heart called this
reporter. Once located, two dozen police officers and firefighters
working with chainsaws and guide rope extricated his body.A
wallet was found on the corpse. The identification told investigators
the barest of facts. Name: Johnnie Lewis Redding. DOB: 09-29-1952. City
of residence: River Rouge.They know little else. Whether his was death by misadventure or by the hand of another man remains a mystery.”He
is still too frozen to even take fingerprints,” said Vanessa
Denha-Garmo, spokeswoman for the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office.The
address in the wallet leads to a small Cape Cod in River Rouge, where
he once lived with his mother. For the record, her name was Orlene.The home is now owned by his brother Homer, who along with his sister, Lillian Warren, identified the body late Friday.Homer Redding, 59, was heart-broken but not shocked by his little brother’s death.According
to him, Johnnie was a soft-hearted man who fell into a hard world and
could never extricate himself from it, no matter how hard he tried.
Johnnie was infected with the need for drugs and alcohol. Rundown
buildings were his clubhouse.”He chose the life for whatever
reason,” Redding said. “But he wasn’t homeless. Please don’t call him
homeless. He always had a place to go. He was loved.”Johnnie
Redding, according to his brother and sister, was one of those men who
bounced from odd job to couch to the homeless mission and back.He lived with his mother in River Rouge, the same house he was raised in, until she died two years ago.It
wasn’t always this way for Johnnie. He worked until he was 40 at a
local steel mill alongside his father. Then Johnnie’s brother Marion
died of an overdose.”That’s when I seen the change,” Homer said. “He was very close to Marion.”Johnnie
began to ping-pong in life. He would do odd jobs: gardening, plumbing,
anything to get him through. When he couldn’t get through, he would
insinuate himself on his sister’s couch and then insinuate himself on
his brother’s couch and then, feeling better, he would get lost again.”Last time I saw him was in September for his birthday,” Homer said. “It was all right. I haven’t seen him since.”If the outpouring of phone calls and letters are any indication, then the
life and sad end of Johnnie Redding reminds us that even the dirtiest
life has value. There are many Johnnies out there: Victor, Kenneth,
Terrence, your loved ones are asking about you.And if you should
judge Johnnie Redding harshly, his brother Homer said, remember that no
man deserves to go ignored at the bottom of an elevator shaft.”We’ve got to live in the world together,” Homer said. “And we got to care about each other.”You can reach Charlie LeDuff at (313) 222-2071 or charlie@detnews.com.

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