Fidencio Sanchez, Chicago’s beloved paleta salesman whose indefatigable work ethic and generous heart charmed residents, died this week. He was 92.
His friend Joel Cervantes Macias, as well as Manny Martinez of Martinez Funeral Home, confirmed his death to CNN. Dulce Sanchez, Fidencio’s granddaughter, confirmed his death to the Chicago Tribune .
For years, Sanchez shuffled up and down the streets of Chicago’s Little Village with a freezer cart full of popsicles. Orphaned at 6 months, he worked to support himself since he was 13, first in Morales, Mexico, and then, since 1990, in Chicago.
Images of the then-89-year-old hunched over his cart, struggling to push it, told a moving story: His wife could no longer work with him, and the daughter who cooked for them every day died in 2016.
He worked out of necessity.
That same year, Joel Cervantes Macias met Sanchez, bought 20 popsicles from him and started a GoFundMe in hopes he’d raise enough to help Sanchez retire.
In a few weeks, thousands of people from across the world donated nearly $400,000 for the paleta man.
Sanchez told CNN in 2016 that he was “very grateful and very happy” for the unexpected support.
He lived modestly into retirement
Though Sanchez initially considered buying a house or investing in some hearing aids with his retirement funds, he continued to live frugally, Macias said. He stayed in the apartment he shared with his wife, though he did splurge on a new car.
He enjoyed activities he couldn’t afford before, Macias said. He’d dine at a Chinese buffet with his wife a bit more often and visited museums more frequently than he used to.
But, most notably, Sanchez finally retired.
Macias told CNN he grew closer with Sanchez and his family since their 2016 introduction. They’d attend gatherings at Sanchez’s church together and regularly speak on the phone.
Earlier this year, Sanchez fell and broke his hip, Macias said. From there, fluid accumulated in his lungs and sepsis complicated his health.
Sanchez’s granddaughter phoned Macias immediately after he passed. Macias shared the news on Facebook , where it’s been shared more than 1,500 times.
“Everybody’s seen their grandfather in him, or their father,” he said. “He gave me a nice new look at humanity.”