The death of a homeless man in downtown Los Gatos the morning of Oct. 24 left many in town shocked about what had happened to regular transient Christopher Blatnick.
But they also wondered who he was, where he came from and why he had ended up on the streets.
Police found the body in a public bathroom on North Santa Cruz Avenue with no sign of trauma, no evidence of foul play.
A friend of Blatnick's, who identified himself as Thomas Kouns, said the 50-year-old man had grown up in Los Gatos and had attended St. Mary's School and Los Gatos High School.
He also said Blatnick had started working very young in the restaurant industry as a bus boy and then a chef around the country.
One of his first jobs was at C.B. Hannegan's, Kouns said. He also was in the Armed Forces, but he wasn't sure which branch.
At the time of his death, Blatnick had been trying to get his military benefits. His wife Martha, who was also homeless, had died several years ago and the loss had a profound effect on his outlook and world view, Kouns added.
Blatnick also battled his demons, one of them substance abuse, Kouns said, who met him through St. Luke's Episcopal Church's outreach program for the homeless.
"Like most of us, he was not a perfect person," he said. "But I can say this ... Chris was bright, funny and when not affected by alcohol, a kind human being."
Kouns said he met Blatnick after moving back to the area from New York and went to St. Luke's. After that, he would see him around town occasionally and would speak with him whenever he could.
"You wonder how the homeless get in these situations," Kouns said. "What precipitates that ... I can't say I knew him intimately or fairly well, but I always asked him questions.
"He clearly struggled with substance abuse issues, but he was articulate ... He was on a path that he could not get out of."
Like many in Los Gatos who help and befriend the homeless, Kouns said he wasn't shocked that Blatnick had died, but he was saddened by the death.
As others, Kouns would see the blond, scraggly-bearded thin man around town buying small bottles of vodka from local liquor stores with money he had received from kind-hearted residents. "He would drink them continuously ... when his wife passed away he had a very hard time recovering from that ... he couldn't get out of that cycle."
Blatnick was also in survival mode, he added, battling - like many homeless - difficult childhoods and psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and alcoholism. "You could tell, the last few times that I had seen him, that he was probably not long for this world," he said.
A homeless friend who goes by the name of Cory remarked to Kouns that he also knew Blatnick was going downhill. "He was aware of what was going on. He knew he was going downhill and from afar it seemed he didn't care."