January 9, 2013

Pedestrian, 80, in fatal accident identified by police

Thomas Wimberly routinely cheated death.

Thomas Wimberly routinely cheated death.

The 80-year-old homeless veteran had a habit of not looking when he decided to cross the street, even if he was nowhere near a crosswalk.

“He would wave as they dodged him or honked at him,” Sandy Swank, director of housing and homeless services for Inter-Faith Ministries, said via e-mail.

Then there was the time he was so badly beaten that police told Swank he wasn’t expected to live.

“But four days later, he was out on the street again,” Swank said.

Tuesday night, however, tragedy struck.

Wimberly was hit and killed shortly after 6:15 p.m. as he crossed in the middle of the 200 block of North Broadway, Lt. Joe Schroeder said.

He was hit by an Oldsmobile sedan traveling north, next to the curb across from an Emprise Bank branch.

The 20-year-old driver “never saw Mr. Wimberly until he was directly in front of her vehicle,” Schroeder said.

Wimberly was taken to Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis, where he died at 7 p.m.

Swank said she spoke to a man shortly after the accident who told her he had walked with Wimberly down to Second and Broadway, where he left Wimberly by the bank and kept walking north. When he came back south, he saw the emergency vehicles and “was certain that it was Thomas,” Swank said.

Wimberly routinely ate at the Lord’s Diner, which provides a free meal every night for anyone who wants one. Staffers there knew him as Grandpa Tom, former director Wendy Glick said via e-mail.

He also frequently used the winter overflow shelter for the homeless.

Swank called him “hard-headed but very intelligent.”

He was hard of hearing and had poor eyesight, Schroeder said. Neither speed nor alcohol was a factor in the collision, he said.

Glick and others said Wimberly had “mental health issues” that he blamed on the aftermath of the summer day in 1984 when he drove a car off the road and struck and killed 10-year-old Michele Jessogne.

Police said his blood alcohol level was 0.122 – over the legal limit of 0.1 at the time. Wimberly pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and drunken driving and spent the next several years in prison.

His marriage of 38 years ended and he became estranged from his family.

“He was always ‘challenging’ people,” Swank said.

He was taken to court over two hot dogs he took from a downtown QuikTrip in 2007, though a jury cleared him because there was no evidence – his dog ate it.

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