Arthur Roper died on Friday, Jan. 24, of complications from sepsis, which led to a stroke. He was 83 years old. Art was born in Dallas, Texas on Sept. 5, 1936. He lived in Berkeley most of his life and worked most recently as a Street Spirit vendor. He also had been a custodian at the South Berkeley Drop-In Center for more than 20 years.
“He was a sweetheart, a loving husband and father” Art’s wife, Rosalind Smith, said. “He took care of my children like they were his own.” The two were married ten years ago in Downtown Oakland. Rosalind still smiles when she remembers the day he got down on one knee in his Fruitvale apartment and proposed to her. Rosalind says that Art is the reason she was able to exit homelessness. “He took me up off the streets, moved me into his apartment, put me on his lease, and married me,” she says. “He was the kind of man who liked to help people in need.”
Art was homeless for the final years of his life. He was a beloved resident of the Here/There community encampment in South Berkeley. As of this writing, his death marks the fifth homeless person to die in Berkeley in 2020. In a cruel twist of fate, he finally made it off the waitlist for subsidized housing during his final days, while he was in the ICU, but never made it out of the hospital to claim that housing.
“Seniors are one of the most disenfranchised, forgotten groups of homeless people,” says Joe Pendleton of the Here/There community camp. “He wouldn’t have died that day if he had been living at a home.”
Art is survived by his wife, Rosalind and his daughter, Sandra.