BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - The Downtown Bryan community is mourning the loss of one of a familiar face.
Al Sims, 76, passed away last week and had been a fixture there for years. He chose to live outside and could be seen sitting in Downtown frequently. His life ended in an alley downtown on August 28.
A memorial pays tribute to the man local's called "Mr. Al." This week flowers and messages could be seen in the place where he was staying.
"I was more sad that he died alone. You know nobody around in an alleyway. He just deserves a little bit more dignity than that," said Dustin Batson, owner of Downtown Elixir and Spirits Company. Baton became friends with Al in recent years and was the one who found him.
"I thought he was sleeping and I really feel like he died in his sleep because the way I found him," he explained.
Al Sims grew up in Bryan and was a quarterback for the Kemp High Football team, then joined the Air Force.
"The Vietnam veteran, he enlisted right after high school and I guess his two tours of Vietnam gave him pretty traumatic PTSD," said Batson.
"He went on to get his law degree and became an attorney for the IRS in Seattle and eventually his mental state deteriorated and then he ended up wandering around California and Fort Worth and eventually coming to Bryan," said Batson.
"He had a big phobia of indoors. Really it was kind of a choice for him to be homeless," he said.
Many organizations are helping to make his funeral happen including Brazos Valley Cares and Hillier Funeral Home.
"He served the community that he lived in. He acted as a bodyguard to many ladies walking them to their car late at night or early in the morning," said Glenn Duhon, Hillier Funeral Home Locations Manager. "And he just swept up in front of businesses and kept things looking nice and he never lost servant's heart," he said.
First United Methodist Church of Bryan donated the funeral plot. The City of Bryan is providing a police escort for the funeral which will include Patriot Guard Riders. CHI St. Joseph Health, The Eagle, Aggieland Flowers, The Texas A&M Corps of Cadets and Metzer Cemetery Services also are assisting.
“Many organizations in town have stepped up. It does take a village to raise a village and to honor a great man," Duhon explained.
"I just thought he was just a genuinely nice man and I just wanted to like I said, we showed our respect as posthumously that he was loved around here. So everybody liked him," said Batson.
The public is welcome to attend his celebration of life happening Saturday, September 7.
Visitation is happening from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Hillier Funeral Home on 29th Street in Bryan.
Then at 3:00 p.m. the graveside service will happen at the Bryan City Cemetery on Texas Avenue.
A reception will follow from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Downtown Elixir and Spirits Company in Downtown Bryan.
If you'd like to assist you can contact Brazos Valley Cares at (979) 361-7815.