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Tennessee woman donates hats in honor of homeless man who died

Posted: 3:45 PM, Nov 22, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-23 15:04:56Z

NASHVILLE, Tennessee — A woman donated more than 60 hats after seeing a WTVF television story about the forgotten homeless people in Nashville.

Patty Piper, of Carthage, was inspired when she saw video of a homeless man named Curtis who lived in a homeless camp in the woods in Nashville. The 68-year-old man was living in a tent under a tarp and spent much of his day in a wheelchair. He was cold and accepted a beanie hat from an aid worker with the non-profit homeless ministry Layman Lessons.

"When Lillian went down and put the hat on the little man and kissed him, that did something to me," said Piper. "It just broke my heart. That's when I said right then that's where I want my hats to go."

Piper contacted Lillian Weist, a volunteer with the ministry, and shipped her hats to them.

"Patty called me a couple of days after that aired. We don't know each other," said Weist. "She said when I put the cap, the beanie, on Curtis, and I leaned down and kissed his head, she decided right then she was going to send the caps to our ministry to hand out. That one moment changed her life."

But when Weist went to deliver the hats to the same camp where Curtis lives, she got terrible news.

Several days after the story aired, Curtis passed away. According to people who know him, Curtis had a heart attack sometime shortly after Nashville went into a deep freeze. 

"The first cold snap when you're weak and vulnerable usually gets you because you're too vulnerable and you're too sick to sustain it," said Weist. She said the news of Curtis's death hit her hard.

Thanksgiving morning, she and Louie Johnston went out to the homeless camps again to hand out the knit caps in Curtis's honor.

"I don't know why Curtis's death has impacted me so much," said Weist. She had been visiting Curtis since February of 2018. She said she had a funny feeling the last time she left Curtis's camp.

"I guess I'm thankful that my eyes were opened to someone other than myself," she said.

Piper said she's going to continue to knit hats and donate them to Layman Lessons. The non-profit relies entirely on donations to give to homeless camps across the city.

"I'm thankful that I was able to do it for them," said Piper.