A south Minneapolis man died two days after he was struck by a vehicle while walking across Hiawatha Avenue, authorities said.
Thomas Bakker, 64, who lived in the 4400 block of S. 30th Avenue, was a recently retired truck driver who dreamed of selling his house to trade Minnesota winters for a life living aboard a boat in Hawaii, according to his friends and neighbors. He died Saturday at HCMC.
"He was just a generous guy and a good guy," said his neighborhood friend Michael Helms. "He didn't want to talk politics, just laughing stuff. He tried to stay upbeat. He's going to be missed."
Some friends originally thought the Nov. 21 incident was a hit-and-run, but authorities said the driver stayed at the scene and spoke to police.
On the morning he was struck, Bakker stopped by Helms' house and asked him if he wanted to go to the Joint Bar on Cedar Avenue for breakfast. Helms was on his way to work and said no. Bakker, who may have been on his way to a light-rail train station, then walked to the intersection of Hiawatha Avenue and E. 42nd Street, where he was struck around 6:46 a.m., according to police.
A rescue crew from the Minneapolis Fire Department took Bakker to HCMC, where he was admitted in critical condition. He died two days later.
The driver who struck Bakker said they were driving east on Hiawatha, away from downtown, in the dark when Bakker suddenly appeared. Bakker was wearing dark clothing and walking across the road, the driver said. The driver braked and attempted to swerve, but was unable to steer clear. Bakker flew over the top of the vehicle and landed in the road. A second driver who witnessed the incident confirmed the details to police, saying the driver who hit Bakker was not speeding.
Bakker grew up in the Ericsson neighborhood of south Minneapolis, according to Helms, in the house his parents lived in before they died. He sometimes walked his Afghan dog down the alley to Helms' house, on the same block, where the two would share beers on the back patio. Helms also grew up in the neighborhood, and he knew that Bakker's parents had prioritized education and sent Bakker to a private school.
"He was book-smart," said Helms. The two bonded over their love of cars. Helms has a 1976 Corvette, and Bakker had a Pontiac Fiero that he loved to drive slowly through the neighborhood. "You could always tell when it was Tom coming by because he was going so slow," said Helms.
When they were younger, they'd head over to Jimmy's, a bar on Minnehaha Avenue. Everyone there knew Bakker, said Helms.
Bakker's neighbors Sybil Axner and Vincent Wyckoff said they knew him as a friendly neighbor who had recently told them that he was planning to leave Minnesota.
He brought a bouquet of flowers over for Axner when he shared his news about Hawaii. "I was really surprised," said Axner, adding that he brought another bouquet to his neighbor on the other side of his house. "He was a nice, gentle person," she said.
Wyckoff said he knew Bakker had bad winter experiences, one time sharing a story about getting stuck on a remote northern highway when temperatures were well below freezing. He told Wyckoff he had nightmares about it and didn't want to live in Minnesota anymore.
A woman who had long lived with Bakker was not available for comment, and Bakker's relatives could not be reached Thursday.
Bakker is survived by his sister, Anne Boie, and many other family members and friends, according to an online funeral notice. The family plans a celebration of Bakker's life at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Bradshaw Funeral Home, 3131 S. Minnehaha Av., Minneapolis, with visitation at 5 p.m.
Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329