Wednesday, January 6, 1999

Neighbors barely knew man who froze in hallway




BY TANYA BRICKING
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        In life and in death, Isaac Miller was largely ignored.

        The 78-year-old Over-the-Rhine man lived alone in a small room on Race Street and rarely had visitors. His daily routine was to go to the corner bar for a few beers and then go back to his room.

        Neighbors found him in an unheated hallway Monday morning, freezing to death.

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        Those who knew him describe a sad picture of Mr. Miller: He was blind in one eye, nearly deaf and had a nagging cough. He had nasal problems and wore cotton in his ears and toilet tissue in his nose, neighbor Larry Toole said.

        “He talked with a speech impediment,” said Scott Johnson, 48, a neighbor. “Most of the people around here didn't have anything to do with him because he couldn't talk plain.”

        The tall and lanky Mr. Miller, who usually wore jeans and a T-shirt, would put on layers in cold weather. But on Monday, when it was 16 degrees outside, he was was too cold to pick himself off the floor.

        Mr. Toole, 65, describes what happened that morning:

        “One fella who lives in the building came down about 7:20 and saw him lying in the hallway right in front of the door,” he said.

        Mr. Miller told his next-door neighbor he had fallen, but that tenant didn't call for help because Mr. Miller said he would be all right, Mr. Toole said.

        Ten minutes later, Mr. Miller was incoherent. An upstairs neighbor called 911, and a rescue crew took Mr. Miller to University Hospital. Doctors could not save him.

        He died of hypothermia, a drop in the body's core temperature that is considered severe when it falls below 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Mr. Miller's had slipped to about 75 degrees.

        According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than 700 people nationwide die of hypothermia each year. Symptoms include shivering, bluish or puffy skin, numbness, fatigue, poor coordination, slurred speech and impaired judgment.

        At the 1132 Bar a few doors up Race Street, regulars in the warm and smoky tavern said they hadn't noticed anything unusual about Mr. Miller, except that he didn't show up Monday morning.

        “Every day, he would come in and get a couple drinks and leave,” said bartender Karl Mihiloff, 67. “He was an all right, good guy.”

        Mr. Miller's death appeared to prompt little emotion in his neighborhood.

        “I can't say I'm really saddened,” Mr. Johnson said. “It just seems like somebody could have done something to help.”

       



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