Eugene Fejnas, a former panhandler who for 15 years slept in Elysian Park within sight of Dodger Stadium, and who three weeks ago realized a longtime dream of meeting Dodger Manager Tommy Lasorda, died Thursday of stomach cancer. He was 64.
Fejnas was the subject of a recent View profile after friends took him to the Dodger game and arranged for him to meet Lasorda.
To many, Fejnas was "Eugene the Puzzle Man," a sobriquet drawn from his passion for jigsaw puzzles. For the 1 1/2 decades he slept in Elysian Park, Fejnas took almost daily walks downtown to St. Vincent's Center on Skid Row, where he worked on the puzzles.
Nine years ago the Los Angeles Catholic Worker community gave Fejnas a free room in downtown Los Angeles. After that, nearly every day he helped serve coffee and doughnuts at St. Vincent's Center and participated in various Catholic Worker community activities, taking particular pleasure in events involving families.
"We feel like we've lost the heart of our community," said Jeff Dietrich, a founding member of the Catholic Worker group. "Eugene was close to everyone in the community. I think of him when I hear the Scripture quote, 'Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.' "