Man found dead in Nanaimo remembered as mild-mannered 'real sweetheart'

A 59-year-old man found dead in Nanaimo on Saturday has been identified by friends as Leonard Williams, a man who had spent many years living on the street.

Williams was found dead on Fitzwilliam Street, near Wallace Street, on Saturday morning. Nanaimo RCMP police are investigating reports of a possible altercation the previous night.

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Williams was known as Little Leonard, a nickname earned because of his diminutive, five-foot-tall stature, said Tanya Hiltz of the Wisteria Community Association, an outreach organization and soup kitchen. She and her husband, Doug Hiltz, have known Williams for years. His death has rattled the street community, said the couple, who spend every night handing out food, blankets and warm clothes to people without homes across Nanaimo.

Williams was an alcoholic who collected cans to survive, Tanya Hiltz said.

“We have a joke here in Nanaimo that he was the best bottle canner in town,” she said. He would go to the bottle depot every day to trade his cans for cash.

Doug Hiltz said he and Williams used to have a fun competition to see who could collect the most bottles in an hour. Williams would usually win.

Williams, who was originally from Tofino, never got help for his drinking, Tanya Hiltz said. She said he was not a fighter and she’s never heard him bad mouth anyone.

“He was one of the most mild-mannered guys around,” she said. “A real sweetheart.”

The Hiltzes are angry that the City of Nanaimo relocated people who were staying in a homeless encampment on Wesley Street following a Dec. 3 fire.

“If they had left Wesley Street alone, that crew [sheltering in tents] would have heard something and could have intervened,” Tanya Hiltz said.

Doug Hiltz said people without homes are now sheltering in Bowen Park, which is filled with trails, making harder for outreach workers to find those in need.

The cause of death has not been made public. Serious crime investigators have learned that loud voices were heard in the area on Friday night. Williams was last seen about 9:30 p.m.

Investigators are asking anyone who heard or saw anything in the area on Friday or Saturday, or who interacted with Williams before his death, to call the Nanaimo RCMP non-emergency line at 250-754-2345 and quote file # 2020-45860.

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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