Gerald Fomalont, 60, of Bustleton, a man with cerebral palsy who died in the frigid cold two weeks ago, was well-liked and took pride in living independently, his family said.
Fomalont’s body was found Saturday, Feb. 2, near railroad tracks in Somerton three days after he was reported missing.
The Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office determined he died of hypertensive cardiovascular disease with a contributing factor of environmental hypothermia, according to a spokesperson. His death was ruled accidental.
“He had a lot of friends, was very well liked,” his younger sister Linda Gaeman said. “Did not have a mean bone in his body. Was very gentle.”
Fomalont was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth and grew up in Oak Lane. His parents pushed for him not to be marginalized at a time when services for people with disabilities were few and far between, and he graduated from Olney High School.
“It took him five years,” Gaeman, of Holland, Bucks County, said. “It took him a little longer, but my parents vowed that he would be normalized as much as possible.”
After his parents died, Fomalont lived on his own with the help of staff and aides. Gaeman said he worked part-time at Associated Production Services, a packaging and warehouse company that employs adults with developmental disabilities.
Fomalont was a reader who frequently flipped through the pages of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Northeast Times, according to Gaeman. He was also an expert at riding SEPTA and knew many bus routes, she said.
“He loved being around people and being involved,” Gaeman said. “He didn’t like to be marginalized.”
He enjoyed walking around his condominium complex on the 9900 block of Bustleton Avenue and checking in with his neighbors. Once, several years ago, he was walking around when he heard a woman he knew calling for help.
“He called and got her help,” Gaeman said. “He saved her life basically.”
“That’s just the type of person he was,” she added. “Some people might call him a buttinski, but it worked to his advantage many times.”
Fomalont was reported missing Jan. 30 after he didn’t come home from work at his usual time. Gaeman said he missed his normal bus, and she thinks he tried to walk home during a snow squall.
“It’s heartbreaking the way this all came down and the way this all ended,” Gaeman said. “It shouldn’t have happened this way, and it was just a freak accident.”
“He was a great person, and I hope he didn’t have to suffer,” she added.
In addition to Gaeman, Fomalont is survived by his nephews Andrew, Robert, Tyler and Matthew. He was predeceased by his sister, Fran Swartz.
Funeral services were held Friday, Feb. 8. Contributions in his memory can be made to Community Care of the Northeast, 2417 Welsh Road, No. 202, Philadelphia, PA 19114 or to Cure HHT, www.curehht.org ••