Thursday, December 29, 2011

GCA ANNOUNCEMENT: Sadly, TOYA BEY, former GCA Safety & Security Chairman has passed

An official message from Greater Chatham Alliance (sent Dec. 27), which clarifies a news story about a GCA member:
Dear Greater Chatham Alliance members, Chatham and 6th Ward neighbors:

I've been getting a lot of emails and calls regarding the death of Toya Bey since it was released by the media in the last day and a half.

And truly, I am terribly saddened and sorry to issue this statement regarding her death. As most of you know, Toya was GCA's first Safety & Security Committee Chairman.
GCA is sending this announcement out via an email blast because ABC-TV (Channel 7) wrongly reported her death yesterday.

Here is an actual account of what occurred.

After struggling for the past three years with illness, Toya suffered a heart attack. What is more heartbreaking is the way it happened. As her neighbor, my husband and I were witness to part of this tragic occurrence.

This past Friday, Christmas Eve, around 10 a.m. to 10:15 a.m., I was barely up when I heard a frantic ringing on my doorbell and loud banging on my door. It was Toya's housekeeper who had arrived that morning to assist Toya with her Christmas Eve preparations.

Linda shouted through the door, as I was opening it, to call 911. She frantically said Toya had collapsed.

I, in turn, grabbed my cordless phone in the living room, called 911 and simultaneously ran up the stairs to get my husband. I was still in my pjs. Darwin quickly threw on his pants, shoes and a jacket and flew out the front door.

We live one door-- South-- of Toya's home. Unfortunately, Toya, in an effort to get help, exited from her side, kitchen door. That door is facing directly opposite the front door
of the neighbor's home who lives North of Toya's house.

Within three to four minutes from when Darwin went around to see what he could do, I received a phone call from his cell phone.

He told me that he felt Toya was dead. Before I could even react, an ambulance pulled up. (Yes, an ambulance arrived in 5 minutes and the police in 8 to 10 minutes.)

Darwin said, Toya, dressed only in her nightgown, was lying on the ground between the inner-lane corridor of the two homes.

Naturally, we had both assumed when her housekeeper came over to our home that Toya was inside the house.

We also found out later that the senior neighbor who lived in the home, North of Toya's house, had left early, around 4 p.m., on Friday, the day before Christmas Eve, to stay with her daughter's family for the holidays.

So no one was at the neighbor's home on Christmas Eve.

After the ambulance arrived, Darwin came to our front door and said it was official: Toya had died. Over the course of the next 15 to 20 minutes, since Toya had a very small family with no parents or siblings alive, we had to figure out a way to contact her boyfriend.

Here is another sad truth, we never had access to an emergency number for next of kin. Probably, because middle-aged people don't think about it like seniors, or people with children when they are living at home by themselves.

I know Toya always knew our Wabash blocks were tight enough that most of us had at least 65% of the neighbors' numbers. (Yes, we too don't have the 35% who live in the six-flat on our block).

But as you can clearly see, it doesn't always work as planned.

In any case, we figured out, among our friends, who might know how to contact Toya's boyfriend because they were closer to him. After two calls, we got lucky and got his number. Darwin called him and naturally, he was on his way.

All in all, the Chicago Breaking News site did a better job reporting her death: given her heart attack, Toya's death was accelerated due to cold exposure. The police said after examining
her that she was probably outside on the ground for over 5-6 hours--maybe even longer. It looked like she left the house in the late evening hours; but no one can really say for sure. And, the neighbor didn't have her motion lights on.

Here again, is an ill-fated aspect. Think about it! Had the motion lights been on, someone passing by in a car, or walking by, might have seen Toya laying on the ground and rushed to her aid.

What is also known is that when she fell, Toya may have also hit her head. Plus, her main kitchen door closed behind her. I am just hypothesizing here, but her small dog may have accidently jumped on the door and shut it. You see, the kitchen door was tightly closed.

Normally, as you know, GCA does not make death or funeral announcements. As a former GCA Executive Board member, we are going to make an exception and send out a notice on her funeral arrangements. This is to accommodate folks who have asked me to forward that info to them.

Thank you for all your condolences to GCA and for sharing your sadness with me. But one thing I think Toya would have wanted me really say about this:

If you live alone, or have a senior relative living with you, you may want to invest in a panic button with your alarm system, or get one from the company that sells the "Life Alert" system. Remember their tag line:

"Help I've fallen and can't get up!"

Toya was always good at calling things the way they were-candidly. And I think that she would want people to learn from this situation as she always shared what she knew to be true from her professional experience in the past.

I can honestly say: this whole event has made me consider things a little differently myself as part of a middle-aged couple.

Please commend her soul in your prayers to God. Toya would have been glad to know so many of you expressed your concern and sorrow.

Leslie Honore

GCA Corresponding Secretary

Here's the Chicago Tribune story in question:

Cold exposure contributes to death of Chatham neighborhood woman
A Chatham neighborhood woman who died Saturday after being found outside perished in part from cold exposure, authorities said.
Toya Bey, who was in her 50s and of the 8200 block of South Wabash Avenue, was found outside at her home Saturday and was dead on the scene, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.
An autopsy Sunday determined the primary cause of Bey’s death was heart disease but cold exposure is listed as a contributing cause, according to the medical examiner’s office. Her death was ruled an accident.

Bey is at least the third person in Cook County to die in part from the cold this season.

1 comment:

  1. Toya Bey was a vibrant lady that truly cared about this community. Her committment to keeping Chatham residents informed was very admirable. I remember she stopped me as I walked down the street and we talked about her parents' being role models and how their efforts to help others inspired her into action.
    Wishing you God's Peace.


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