Eugene was one of the most reliable coaches with his unkempt raggedy beard, shabby clothes, and hole- filled shoes. He is a fixture on the sands of South Beach. But what is his story?
It is an interesting one for sure. He was raised to be homeless by his mother in Brooklyn, N.Y. before moving to South Beach in 1966. Raven remembers him and his mother from those times. Both mother and son slept on the old pier. They were a regular site on a bench, or shuffling along. It was quite a sight, his mother pulling a shopping cart and Placard Man following her with a folding chair.
He never spoke. His mother did the talking for both of them, but he was always reading and studying everything around him.
When his mother died in 1985, Placard Man was left on his own. Though he worked sporadically as a desk clerk and had a place to live on and off, by the late 80’s he chose to be homeless on the beach. Because of his age, 77 as of 2007, he receives assistance. He has been called a homeless role model by the homeless because he doesn’t beg drink, smoke, curse, or cause trouble.
He was an avid reader and constantly gathered knowledge. He often carried a placard with his messages, world political thoughts, requests for a coastal bike paths made of recycled tires, or warnings of the dangers of UV Sun rays.
When Raven and the runners ran by him, Raven called out everyone’s first name (except Ozarks) and Placard Man tried to repeat all of them. He has been able to recall up to nine runner names at one time.
He survived on his small social security check, and slept between 7th and 8th street, by a tree where the lights are just enough so he could read. Placard Man may have been homeless but he was an intelligent gentle soul.