Human skeletal remains found on the Southern State Parkway in Valley Stream Monday were those of a 65-year-old Franklin Square man, State Police said.
His family said Steven Roque made a choice 40 years ago to live under the sun and stars. Roque had been missing for about six months when a passerby on foot found his remains just before 2:30 p.m. on a wooded embankment along the parkway, near the Franklin Avenue overpass, State Police said. The cause of death, which will be determined by the medical examiner, appears to be natural, investigators said.
Roque lived a homeless lifestyle for 40 years, ever since college, but kept in touch weekly with relatives through phone calls and visits, from shopping trips to Sunday church gatherings, his cousin, Susan Schroy, a Hempstead Town resident, said after she and her neighbor spoke to police at the scene. Many times, his relatives asked him to live with them, but he'd gently spurn their offers, she said.
"That's how he wanted to live," his cousin said. "But he was very, very happy. Never asked anybody for money."
Roque was not defined by his homelessness, those who knew him said. Every Christmas, he'd attend the family gatherings with gifts from the Dollar Store and videos. A camping enthusiast, he took the bus to upstate Bear Mountain State Park to enjoy nature, and he was a fan of public transportation, which took him to other states, his cousin said. Before the death of his mother, who was blind, he'd stop by her home every week to do the washing, cooking, cleaning and shopping, Schroy said.
A religious man, Roque didn't show up for church as planned with relatives in early September, Schroy said. His sister, who lives in Florida, filed a missing person report with Nassau police, Schroy said. Family and friends searched the area, she said.
Roque never really explained why he wanted to be homeless all these decades, but at 6 feet 4 inches, he impressed relatives and friends with how gentle, content and sociable he was at parties and gatherings, said his friend, Margaret Stanford, who is also Schroy’s neighbor and accompanied her to the scene. Two Christmases ago, he got hit by a car but went to the family party with broken ribs, unwilling to ruin their cheer, Stanford and Schroy said.
“He was a mighty big man with a simple philosophy,” Stanford said. “He just loved freedom and lived life to the fullest.”