MARY MEAUX — Browsing through headlines leads to odd but sad story
Published 12:05 am Thursday, March 31, 2022
I like to look for news stories that have a connection to our area so when I came across the headline “Homeless man found dead had been declared dead in 2003; family searched for him for years” I was intrigued.
The Google mail alert I saw the headline in told me this story had a tie to Port Arthur so I quickly began to read this story that was in the Palo Alto, California Daily Post.
It centered around a man named Theodore Nelson Clegg Jr., also known as Chastelain, who was born in Port Arthur in 1954.
So how did the Port Arthur native end up being declared dead twice and how did he met his demise behind a Shell gas station in California?
Chastelain was a graduate of the University of Texas in 1977, the fourth generation in his family to do so, the article stated. He moved from Texas to San Francisco where he worked as a contractor and as a part-time valet attendant.
He spoke with his family ever few months and a brother visited him during several business trips. Chastelain was evicted from his apartment in August 1993 for not paying his rent but his family wasn’t aware until that November.
Years went by without his family hearing from him until 1998 he used a prepaid card he likely found and called family from a pay phone. They learned he had been living on the streets, had been beaten up in one neighborhood and moved to another area because it was safer.
After the minutes on the phone card were used up, he told his mom to call the payphone number but the payphone didn’t accept call backs, the article said.
His family made numerous attempts to find him — flying out from Texas, but had no luck. They believed he had died in May 2003 and in 2010 he was declared dead, which was required in order for their father’s $75,000 estate to be released to his siblings.
The article goes on to state Chastelain had friends in the Palo Alto area and people offered him “food, gift cards and outdoor gear, but he was resistant to help.”
Everything had to fit in his cart and he only accepted coffee and Starbucks gift cards.
Chastelain was known in the College Terrace neighborhood in Palo Alto for his “tarp-covered shopping cart and jerky movements; he slept outside without a tent.
On the night he died in February it had gotten below 40 degrees. Foul play is not expected in his death.
Looking at the homeless population here in Southeast Texas makes me wonder how many individuals are missing from their loved ones’ lives. That thought brings humanity to the issue of homelessness that some may not factor in.
Mary Meaux is a news reporter at The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org