PROVINCETOWN — Frederico “Freddie” Rocha Jr. died on Dec. 29, 2019 after suffering an apparent heart attack on Shank Painter Road on his way to buy his morning coffee at Cumberland Farms, according to his friend and caretaker David Chick. He was 68.
He had left home around 6 a.m. and collapsed near the Provincetown fire station. He was taken to Cape Cod Hospital but could not be revived.
Rocha had been homeless on and off since 2018 and was living in a group home in Hyannis but had been back in Provincetown for the last two weeks of his life, staying in a rental that Chick had arranged on Conant Street, Chick said.
“In my heart, I feel so happy he was here rather than the cold streets of Hyannis,” Chick said.
Rocha moved to Provincetown with his family when he was young and lived in the family home near the Pilgrim House for more than 50 years.
Diagnosed with schizophrenia, he was a denizen of the streets, and everyone, especially smokers, got to know him quickly as he famously bummed cigarettes from passersby. He also liked to ask people for a few bucks. He was agreeable, even when rebuffed, and would often engage in conversation with the many familiar faces he saw.
When not walking, he could be found on the benches by town hall or Spiritus Pizza and near his favorite lottery ticket store, Essentials.
Rocha had chiseled good looks and a showman’s presence that made him fascinating to photographers.
Provincetown native Mischa Richter photographed him for British Esquire Magazine. Years later, Chick turned his camera on Rocha and the two became friends.
In the fall of 2018, this friendship turned into a caretaking relationship, when Rocha’s two siblings, Mary Welles of Yarmouth Port and Dennis Rocha of Connecticut, had their elder brother evicted because, they said, they could no longer afford the upkeep of the Provincetown house and were planning to sell it.
This led to an unusual public campaign by Chick to find Rocha a home in Provincetown. Julie Wheeler created a GoFundMe account that raised $15,780 for Chick to help Rocha with housing. His story was featured on WCVB’s Chronicle. Chick attempted to fight Rocha’s eviction in court, without success.
Though Chick lived with Rocha last winter, he could not find a place for the two of them in the summer and Rocha became homeless. On Aug. 2, Chick had Rocha committed against his will under Section 12 of state law for his own safety. He had been on the street during a heat wave and doctors at Cape Cod Hospital treated him for dehydration.
He was sent to a rooming house in Hyannis for state Dept. of Mental Health clients. Chick brought him back to Provincetown in mid-December with hope of eventually finding a permanent place and a live-in caregiver for Rocha. Chick had described the struggle to get services and housing for Rocha as complex and all-consuming. Desperate to get back to work himself, Chick had said he was near the end of being able to help Rocha.
But they did spend Freddie’s last two weeks together.
“I kept hugging him and pulling on his ear lobes and he said, ‘Quit doing that — you’ll make me look like a donkey,’ ” Chick said. “Our friendship was quirky and could only be born in Provincetown. He needed a friend and I stepped up to that. I knew how to get him to laugh and his laugh made me laugh…. I know he felt loved.”
Besides his siblings, Rocha is survived by his mother, Patricia Joseph. He was predeceased by his father, Frederico Rocha.
Services were not announced as of the Independent’s deadline.