CHICAGO -- Every day, neighbors saw the old man calling to his cats in the alley, or feeding them in his backyard, or shuffling to the store, often with a half dozen felines following him.
His name was John Pietraszek, but people in the mostly Spanish-speaking Gage Park neighborhood called him "viejo de los gatos" -- the old man with the cats.
Yuri Barcenes, 20, saw him at the Family Dollar store, buying 9Lives cat food.
Ladislao Velasquez, 41, saw him pushing his shopping cart to the laundry.
Bernabe Villalpando, 63, saw him with a gray cat on his shoulder.
But no one really saw Pietraszek.
If they had, they might have realized he was alone. If they could have crossed the sagging threshold of his dilapidated house, they would have seen the debris crammed into rooms and piled to the ceilings. Once inside, they would have realized he had no heat.
Pietraszek, 80, was found frozen to death in an upstairs hallway of his home Jan. 24. According to Peoples Gas, his service had been turned off since 2003. He was one of 13 cold-related deaths this winter in Chicago. In these cases, the victims -- often homeless -- typically die outside.