Rice Street needed all day to say ‘goodbye’ to its homeless friend

Your daily dose of sweetness today comes the Star Tribune’s James Walsh, who over the years has been telling us the story of Bones — Michael Hartzell — with compassion and humanity.

Hartzell is the homeless guy who took care of his neighborhood on Rice Street in St. Paul, refusing to take anything for nothing and giving back what he could.

He died a few weeks ago and on Tuesday his friends said goodbye.

It was a daylong funeral, so that his friends could tell the stories that Walsh could then tell us.

Good stories, too.

But Bones earned the love of a neighborhood through his fierce desire to live life on his own terms, and continuously giving back to his neighbors “even though he had so little to give,” brother Kevin Hartzell said. “You wouldn’t believe the people I’ve talked to who say he saved them.”

Brittani Bailey manages Tin Cup’s bar and restaurant, where Hartzell stopped daily for a white meat chicken dinner and a Grain Belt Premium. She said she remembers learning who he was while she was a grade-schooler. Later, she said, she was repeatedly reminded why he was so loved.

“Once, our cook was out back, sweeping up cigarette butts and was having a hard time,” she said. “And, the next day, Mike bought him a new broom. He was particular how he swept. It’s just how he was.”

We should all be that lucky.

Hartzell, who was 71, will be buried in Fort Snelling Cemetery on Sunday, according to Walsh.