Elderly Blue Island man dies from exposure
An 80-year-old Blue Island man who had dementia died of hypothermia Monday night after leaving his house, authorities said.
Elias Contreras died at MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island at 9:15 p.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. It said an autopsy Tuesday found that diabetes and heart disease also were factors in the death of Contreras, who lived in the 200 block of Olive Street.
Contreras’ cousin, the Rev. Peter Contreras, of Bethel Pentecostal Church in Blue Island, said Contreras lived in the house with his granddaughter, who found him in the front yard. He said it was unclear how long Contreras had been outside before he was discovered.
The National Weather Service said it was 10 below zero about 8 p.m. Monday at Midway Airport.
“Every now and then he would go out of the house to take a walk, and he didn’t realize how cold it was,” the Rev. Contreras said. “Everybody was shocked at what happened.”
He said Contreras lived in Blue Island for nearly his entire life and was the oldest of six brothers and two sisters. He served in the Army as a medic, later worked for a railroad company and had a son and daughter, the Rev. Contreras said, adding that his wife died previously.
Blue Island Mayor Domingo Vargas said Contreras was a neighbor of his and was “well-known in the community.”
The Rev. Contreras said his cousin was a member of Bethel Pentecostal Church, and he had seen him last on Christmas during a church banquet.
“He will be missed,” Contreras said. “He was faithful to his community and to his church and to his people.”
Visitation for Contreras will be from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Bethel Pentecostal Church, 2726 Broadway St. The funeral service will be held at the church at 11 a.m. Friday, with interment at Mount Hope Cemetery in Chicago.
Contreras’ death was the second in the Southland and the eighth in Cook County since October caused at least partly by cold weather, authorities said, though his was the first since the record-breaking cold arrived Sunday night. Carolyn Wilkins, 61, of the 1200 block of D’Amico Drive, Chicago Heights, died Dec. 10 at Franciscan St. James Health in Chicago Heights from heart disease, hypothermia and diabetes, the medical examiner’s office reported.
Contributing: Sun-Times Media