WWII Vet Freezes To Death In His Home - U2 Feedback

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Old 01-29-2009, 10:47 AM   #1
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WWII Vet Freezes To Death In His Home

I think the sadness of this story is just as much about the solitary existence of human beings, especially of a man that age (and the lack of contact with neighbors, the fact that no one seemingly even went to his door to check on him) as it is about the utility company. Would this have happened in a different time, in years past? Maybe. But is it much more likely now?

When you're alone you ain't nothing but alone That part about the heating pad makes me want to burst into tears. The whole thing does but that really got to me.

Freezing death of Mich. man in house sparks anger
By DAVID EGGERT, Associated Press Writer

BAY CITY, Mich. – When neighbors went inside Marvin Schur's house, the windows were frosted over, icicles hung from a faucet, and the 93-year-old World War II veteran lay dead on the bedroom floor in a winter jacket over four layers of clothing.

He froze to death — slowly and painfully, authorities say — days after the electric company installed a power-limiting device because of more than $1,000 in unpaid bills.

The old man's sad end two weeks ago has led to outrage, soul-searching and a resolve never to let something like this happen again.

"There's got to be a way in today's computer age they can find out if someone's over a certain age," said Chad Sepos, 37, a copy machine installer who lives a block away in this Lake Huron city of 34,000 people, about 90 miles from Detroit. "It's just sad."

One of the saddest things of all was that Schur appeared to have plenty of money, and, in fact, one of the neighbors who entered the home reported seeing cash clipped to a pile of bills on the kitchen table. Schur's nephew suggested the old man's mind may have been slipping.

Schur, or "Mutts," was a retired foundry worker who lived alone, his wife having died a couple of years ago. The couple had no children. He could often be seen through the big front window of his comfortably furnished home of 50 or 60 years, watching TV or keeping an eye on his neighborhood.

On Jan. 13, a worker with the city-owned utility installed a "limiter" on Schur's electric meter after four months of unpaid bills. The device restricts power and blows like a fuse if usage rises past a set level. Electricity is not restored until the device is flipped back on by the homeowner, who must walk outside to the meter.

Bay City Electric Light & Power did not contact Schur face-to-face to notify him of the device and explain how it works, instead following its usual policy by leaving a note on the door. But neighbors said Schur rarely, if ever, left the house in the cold.

At some point, the device evidently tripped and was not reset, authorities said. Schur's home was heated by a gas furnace, not electricity, but some gas furnaces do not work properly if the power is out.

Neighbors discovered Schur's body on Jan. 17 in his home, a yellow house with peeling paint. The outside temperature ranged from a high of 12 degrees to a low of minus 9 on Jan. 15, the day he was believed to have died. A heating pad was on his favorite armchair by the window. The oven door was open, perhaps to heat the place.

"The body has a tremendous fighting power for survival. He died a slow, painful death," said Dr. Kanu Virani, who found frostbite on Schur's foot when performing the autopsy. Investigators are trying to establish how long he was without electricity.

City officials are reviewing their procedures and in the meantime have suspended shutoffs and removed all limiters from homes after using the devices for 18 years.

The medical examiner is looking into whether Schur suffered from dementia, particularly after police found enough cash lying around in the home to cover his bills. His nephew William Walworth said Schur told him two years ago he had $600,000 in savings.

"It's definitely not a situation where money is an issue. The issue has to do with the mental faculties you have and your ability to make good decisions," said Walworth, 67, who lives in Ormond Beach, Fla.

"I think the utility's policies are horrible and insane," he added. "For 50 years he paid the bill on a regular basis and never had problems. If people would know who their customers are and take concern for their customers, maybe they'd go knock on the door and see if everything is OK."

Neighbors and others have posted messages on the Internet, complaining it was a shabby way to treat a veteran and demanding city employees be fired or prosecuted for not taking a few minutes to check on Schur, who was a medic in the South Pacific and earned a Purple Heart.

One blogger noted that even a pet owner who leaves his dog outside to freeze can face charges.

Sharon Gire, director of the Michigan Office of Services to the Aging, said Schur's death was preventable. "He was one of Michigan's most vulnerable citizens in need," she said. "It is a tragedy that he had to suffer such a painful death."

Michigan's big, state-regulated utilities are not allowed to shut off power to senior citizens in the winter and must offer payment plans to the poor. State regulators also discourage the use of limiters. But Michigan's 41 smaller municipal utilities — Bay City's included — are not overseen by the state.

Schur's death has prompted Michigan lawmakers to start writing legislation that could ban the use of limiters by municipal utilities.

"The concern was particularly with elderly customers; they can be frail or confused," Public Service Commission spokeswoman Judy Palnau said. "Anything that can require some sort of mechanical intervention can be overwhelming."

Bay City Manager Robert Belleman said that he was "deeply saddened" by Schur's death and that State Police will investigate. But he also said neighbors have a responsibility to each other.

"I've said this before and some of my colleagues have said this: Neighbors need to keep an eye on neighbors," Belleman said. "When they think there's something wrong, they should contact the appropriate agency or city department."
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Old 01-29-2009, 10:50 AM   #2
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Old 01-29-2009, 10:52 AM   #3
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That's so sad.
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Old 01-29-2009, 10:57 AM   #4
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What saddens me are the people that are angry about how he was treated, blaming the utility company, demanding people be prosecuted and such....where were they when he froze to death? If they knew he was "slipping", why didn't they step in to help?
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Old 01-29-2009, 10:59 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Liesje View Post
What saddens me are the people that are angry about how he was treated, blaming the utility company, demanding people be prosecuted and such....where were they when he froze to death?
Good point. Maybe we would much rather point fingers than look at ourselves.
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Old 01-29-2009, 11:04 AM   #6
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Totally.

I am always worrying about my grandpa b/c he lives alone now. He is mobile, but he's had major heart attacks in the past. Anytime my mom calls, my heart skips a beat. Anytime I see him calling, I think he's calling to say he needs help. I go there once a week, and my mom even more. He has a help phone and other people that routinely check in. I can't imagine having a loved one 93 years old, on his own, knowing he was slipping mentally and not checking up. Like the article stated, it seems I show more concern about my neighbor's dogs being out in the cold than this man's neighbors showed for him.

I thought we already learned this lesson when the homeless woman died in the ER, waiting, and everyone was going to sue this person and that person but none of those people seemed to care that she was homeless until she died.

Quote:
Bay City Manager Robert Belleman said that he was "deeply saddened" by Schur's death and that State Police will investigate. But he also said neighbors have a responsibility to each other.

"I've said this before and some of my colleagues have said this: Neighbors need to keep an eye on neighbors," Belleman said. "When they think there's something wrong, they should contact the appropriate agency or city department."
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Old 01-29-2009, 12:16 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Liesje View Post
What saddens me are the people that are angry about how he was treated, blaming the utility company, demanding people be prosecuted and such....where were they when he froze to death? If they knew he was "slipping", why didn't they step in to help?
I agree with some other posters, this is an excellent point. It makes me want to be kinder to my neighbors.
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Old 01-29-2009, 12:24 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Liesje View Post
Totally.

I am always worrying about my grandpa b/c he lives alone now. He is mobile, but he's had major heart attacks in the past. Anytime my mom calls, my heart skips a beat. Anytime I see him calling, I think he's calling to say he needs help. I go there once a week, and my mom even more. He has a help phone and other people that routinely check in. I can't imagine having a loved one 93 years old, on his own, knowing he was slipping mentally and not checking up. Like the article stated, it seems I show more concern about my neighbor's dogs being out in the cold than this man's neighbors showed for him.

I thought we already learned this lesson when the homeless woman died in the ER, waiting, and everyone was going to sue this person and that person but none of those people seemed to care that she was homeless until she died.
My mom-in-law, lives alone and we check on her everyday. Fortunately, I live in a nice, working class neighborhood, where as, people still do things for their neighbors. Especially, the elderly. Visits, shoveling snow and getting them groceries, if needed. We will even collect money to get heaters, if that's what it takes to keep them well.
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Old 01-29-2009, 08:28 PM   #9
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So sad.
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Old 01-29-2009, 08:38 PM   #10
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There are a lot of incedents in the UK of older people not being able to pay for heating, and with consequences such as that of this story.

Its obvious its a global issue, so why isnt more being done?
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Old 01-30-2009, 09:12 AM   #11
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horrible to the people that never said, hey I wonder if the old man is okay, I'm going to check on him. Its called a community people!!!
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Old 01-30-2009, 11:01 AM   #12
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If he had no kids and didn't really talk to people, I don't see any reason for anyone to expect there to be anything wrong. Someone needed to be delegated to check on him, but apparently no one ever thought of it or found it necessary.He probably actually needed to have the social workers called on him to help out but if no one was close enough to know the situation, they wouldn't. Better yet if they were close they could have helped them themselves. I guess everyone just assumed he was okay in there.

Whenever I see situations like this, or ones where a family dies when their house burns down because their power was turned off and they resorted to burning wood all night, it makes me think how maybe at least in some cases the government should run the power companies. It's not right to leave them as a for profit business when it's become a necessity and not a luxury, as it was considered many years ago.
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Old 01-31-2009, 03:53 AM   #13
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This is so sad.
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