Neighbors mourn 61-year-old known for personality, pride
By joe gorman
Neighbors say Earl Douthitt took pride in his Glenwood Avenue yard, as evidenced by the immaculate piles of leaves that lay behind him Tuesday as he was sprawled dead on his sidewalk.
The 61-year-old Douthitt was killed about 3 p.m. after being hit by a van as he was in the yard raking leaves.
Neighbors and workers at the nearby Salvation Army complex were in shock not only over his death, but in how he died.
Robert Smith and his girlfriend, Ann Pitoscia, were returning home when they heard the accident, and Smith rushed over, only to find Douthitt dead.
“I can’t believe it, I’m in shock,” Smith said. “It was just like that.”
Police said the van was traveling south on Glenwood Avenue when the driver lost control between Willis and Delason avenues and hit Douthitt.
Smith said he heard the van, and it was traveling fast.
By the time he got to his neighbor, Douthitt already was dead, Smith said.
The van had dents in its passenger side and it did a complete 360-degree turn after hitting Douthitt before coming to a stop.
Police would not identify the driver but questioned him at the police station after the accident and released him.
Patrolman Brian Booksing of the Accident Investigation Unit said charges are pending.
He said the driver was not drunk, and police still are trying to figure out how he lost control.
Jackie Penny, another neighbor, called Douthitt “a fixture in the community” because of his kind nature and his regular attendance at the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings at the nearby Salvation Army.
She said Douthitt cut the grass at the church across the street from his house and he loved taking care of his yard.
“He’s always working in his yard,” Penny said.
She said Douthitt was a professional football player at one time, and one of the things that made him a great person is that he was never afraid to share his story.
“He wasn’t ashamed to tell his story from riches to rags,” Penny said.
A records search showed Douthitt is a native of Cleveland, played in college for Iowa and played in nine games for the Chicago Bears as a defensive back in 1975.
City Patrolman Robert Giovanni, who patrols the area and was at the accident, said he did not know Douthitt personally but said he was in his yard a lot and he always waved to him.
At the Salvation Army, Maj. Elijah Kahn and Lt. Margaret Silva said Douthitt had visited them earlier in the day.
They said Douthitt was a frequent visitor and he always had a smile on his face.
“He knew everybody in here,” Kahn said. “He was a very friendly guy. A lot of people are going to be heartbroken that he’s passed away.”
Kahn said that whenever he greeted Douthitt he always said to him, “Good to see you,” and Douthitt would reply, “It’s good to be seen.”
“It breaks our heart we won’t see him anymore,” Kahn said.