Former employees of the closed Buca di Beppo on Van Buren rallied together to find the family of their deceased co-worker.
Earlier this month, Domingo "Luis" Rodriguez, 68, was found on his porch. He was drunk but had very severe injuries, telling medical staff he was assaulted for unknown reasons. He had a severe head injury, multiple broken ribs and a fractured spine. The medical staff pronounced him brain dead on June 15.
However, the medical staff had very little information on Rodriguez. He had no Social Security number and multiple aliases. They couldn't even get a concrete date of birth. However, after more digging, they made contact with his former employer at Buca di Beppo where he worked as a dishwasher. Rodriguez was employed at the downtown location until it closed in March.
The restaurant, known for its "family style" fare, also has a family bond with its employees. When Rodriguez's former co-workers caught wind of his situation, they knew they needed to do something. They started a GoFundMe to raise money to give him a proper burial because they knew he didn't have any family around.
But it didn't stop there.
"One Christmas we were both working," said Adriana Guillen, a former co-worker of Rodriguez's. "It was late and I was getting ready to go home and asked him, what are you doing tonight? You going to go home and have dinner with family? He said no, I'm tired. I said, well don't you have family here? He said no."
The moment stuck with Guillen when she heard about him being in the hospital. She knew he had no one at his side.
"I was sad and in shock," Guillen said. "I thought he was such a good guy and didn't deserve that. I kept asking myself, why is this happening to him?"
Guillen and some of Rodriguez's neighbors went to the hospital to be by his side. Guillen says she tried to talk to him and grabbed his hand to try and get a response out of him. Nothing.
"I went to the hospital hoping I could see him," Guillen said. "I just didn't want him to die alone. That broke my heart because I thought of him like a grandfather. I thought if he was conscious and no one was there for him. I didn't want him to die alone. He probably didn't know I was there but I know I was there."
Guillen couldn't do anything for Rodriguez in the hospital but she knew she could try and help give him a proper funeral and find his family. She and several others worked with the Mexican Consulate to try and find his family. Guillen had heard rumors of a potential son in Chicago but that didn't pan out. Then yesterday, with the help of the Consulate and Telemundo, she was able to call Domingo's sister in Mexico.
"They thought he passed away a long time ago because he came here 35 years ago," Guillen said. "They weren't in contact with him. She got really sad and upset of course, the way it happened got them more sad. They are very happy we were able to find them and they're hoping we can help send the body back."
Rodriguez's death is being investigated as an assault and the Medical Examiner has not yet determined a cause of death. So there is no happy ending to this tragic story, but Guillen feels she may have been able to bring a small silver lining to the family.
"It gave me peace I was able to tell her, I tried and there was nothing to do," Guillen said. "She kept asking me what happened and how he looked and how I knew him. I was very happy as well because she kept saying she was very thankful, not only to me but every person who has been helping."
Rodriguez's 91-year-old mother is still alive and is hoping to have her son's body taken to Mexico so she can see him one last time. His former coworkers are hoping the GoFundMe they created, which has raised more than $2,800, can help that happen.