Abias “Sonny” Crosby died of a stroke in September 2018, at the age of 65.
Sonny was well-loved in the Greenwood community, where he sold Real Change for many years. Customer Randy Partin would watch Sonny interact with other customers. “I’m an observer of life, being a photographer, and I would watch all these people one by one come and talk to him,” said Partin. “He was a magnet.”
“Sonny was like your bartender or your barista people would tell him what was going on in their lives. It’s like that Frank Sinatra song: ‘It’s quarter to three, there’s no one at Ken’s Market but you and me, so steady up Sonny, I’ve got a story I’d like to tell you.’”
Vendor Susan Russell, who now sells in Sonny’s old spot, was homeless herself when she met him. He encouraged her to sell Real Change and shared his location with her to help her get started. “He was a quiet mind, but he had a real kind side.”
Sonny, as Susan puts it, “didn’t let a lot of people [in] – he was a Marine, that’s what Marines do.”
Born and raised in St. Louis, he served in the Marine Corps from the 1970s to the 1990s and reached the rank of sergeant. He was in two different wars, going to Vietnam early in his career, and, much later, to Iraq during the first Gulf War. Sonny was stationed for a while near Seattle and decided that he would settle here. He brought his wife and their two sons with him.
After he and his wife divorced, Sonny lived in his car. He was able to get disability payments and exit the streets into a Seattle Housing Authority apartment. Already sick, he spent years struggling up and down the stairs, until one day he couldn’t do it anymore. He had to stop selling Real Change.
The struggle to find an accessible and affordable living space, as well regular trips to the Veterans Affairs Hospital for tests, marked the final year of Sonny’s life. Credit problems made it difficult for him to find a different apartment.
One of his customers organized a GoFundMe campaign to help him with expenses. Another Greenwood neighbor gave him legal advice so he could change his lease to a month-to-month. The Greenwood community stepped up to help him attend doctor’s appointments and several people volunteered to help him move when the time came. Sonny had found another apartment and was preparing to move into it when the stroke ended his life.
Even though he had limited resources, Sonny made a difference in people’s lives. As Randy Partin put it, “We walk by people like Sonny all the time. It’s much to our detriment that we do that.”
Like Sonny, all of us have something to give!
Read the full Feb. 27 - March 5 issue.
Real Change is a non-profit organization advocating for economic, social and racial justice. Since 1994 our award-winning weekly newspaper has provided an immediate employment opportunity for people who are homeless and low income. Learn more about Real Change.