Slain Bridgeport Handyman Left Behind A Legacy Of Giving


Like a number of neighborhood people, Mack met Besst whereas volunteering at God’s Closet, a neighborhood thrift and kitchen run by First Lutheran Church of the Trinity parishioners that turned one thing of an prolonged household.

Besst did not have a straightforward life. He was hit by a bus and significantly injured as a younger man. He helped take care of his late sister. He made ends meet clearing out dilapidated homes and moonlighting as an alley scrap-metal hawk, family and friends mentioned.

“He had a lot of setbacks and struggles in life, but he was an optimistic person, I think,” Mack mentioned. “He was always looking for ways to help the community. People who needed clothes. People who needed food. He was worried about these people all the time, and he did all that he could to make the world a better place for people who don’t have all the advantages that a lot of us do.”

Best discovered a set of kindred spirits at God’s Closet.

“At our church, we feed you no matter how you hunger. Imagine the kind of community we grew — the mentally ill, people without homes and the working poor. All these misfits that don’t fit in, fit in there. And Al was there,” Besst’s pal Erika Hobbs mentioned. “He believed in the ethic and ethos and giving back, probably because someone gave to him. It’s what we believe and that’s how he lived.”

Besst additionally had robust opinions about, nicely, a number of issues. And he wasn’t shy about sharing his ideas to your face. Outwardly,Besst exuded a crotchety nature identified to be indigenous to a few of his Bridgeport contemporizes. But, as soon as you bought to know him, these traits didn’t outline him, his associates mentioned.

“He was one of those cranky old men who was actually was very kind and sensitive. He had a weird relationship with his girlfriend Irene where you could never be sure if they liked each other,” Besst’s pal, Renee Paquin mentioned. “When she passed away, you could tell how much he loved her. I had never seen someone more heartbroken.”

For years, Besst was a fixture at God’s Closet. But for the longest time, he resisted becoming a member of the Lutheran congregation. He was raised Catholic, in any case.

“After his girlfriend Irene died, Al kind of dug into the community. He didn’t have many other people in his life,” Paquin mentioned. “He decided we were his people and became part of the whole scene.”

Besst joined the church, served on the board and, on Sundays, volunteered as an usher and to assist with communion, acts of service and accountability he relished.

Pastor Nic Peñaranda instructed me of the primary time she met Besst. He launched himself the “pastor’s assistant.”

“It was very charming. He was very eager to learn and always wanted to do things right,” she mentioned. “He told me, ‘I don’t have much, but I’m handy. I can drive.’ He always wanted to give us his time.”

Family and associates mentioned they weren’t positive the place Besst was headed Tuesday night time. But it is a protected wager, Paquin mentioned, he was within the strategy of doing somebody a favor. “He was a guy who was constantly doing things for people,” she mentioned.

After information circulated that Besst was shot and killed as he drove close to a pocket of low-income housing residences, his associates seen that some people had began to cheer for a social media name to “get rid of the projects” in his title.

Pastor Penaranda mentioned she would not assume that is not a name to motion Besst would get behind.

“What happened is unfortunate. It’s disgusting. It’s indignant what happened to Al. He didn’t deserve that. But that’s not a reflection of that particular part of our community. I truly believe that crime and violence are all symptoms of the lack of resources that we’re getting. And I don’t think Al would say shut down the projects because of this,” she mentioned.

“Al would say, ‘Someone should knock some sense into who ever did this.’ He would be angry and frustrated … but those are our community members, regardless. … People who live there attend our church and benefit from our services. On Election Day, Al came with us dropping off boxes of food to people who live there.”

The tragedy of Besst’s demise should not overshadow the legacy of how he confirmed folks love, Mack mentioned.

“Al was a peaceful guy who abhorred all the violence we see in Chicago, and he wanted to find ways to stop that just like the rest of us by being an active community member,” he mentioned.

“Getting to know people is one of the ways to combat violence, not by pushing people away but by bringing them in.”