FORT PIERCE — Mathew Kuruvanmackel was a “humble guy,” but the father of three had big plans.
Kuruvanmackel, 39, helped his cousin run the Days Inn on South U.S. 1 south of Edwards Road, while sending money back to his native India, where his wife, Alison, and children live.
He stayed in room 202 and always walked to wherever he needed to go.
He regularly got food at the Crispy Fish & Chicken eatery on the opposite side of U.S. 1 from Days Inn.
“He loved it here. And he was looking to settle down here, bring his wife and his kids here,” Kuruvanmackel’s cousin, Jommy Joseph, said. “That’s what he was aiming for.”
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Kuruvanmackel died after being struck around 8:30 p.m. Sept. 11 by a southbound Chevrolet Suburban as he crossed U.S. 1 near the Days Inn, according to Fort Pierce police.
He wasn’t in a crosswalk, and the SUV driver, a 27-year-old Fort Pierce man, stopped after the crash, which police said remains under investigation.
“All he was doing was just walking across the street to get something to eat, and this car came and hit him and dragged his body,” said Joseph, 40.
‘Lighten everybody’s life’
Joseph described his cousin as a loving person, warm-hearted and compassionate.
“He likes to make sure that everybody around him has this positive energy, and if (anyone) doesn’t, he likes to lighten everybody’s life,” Joseph said.
Joseph said Kuruvanmackel is from Kerala, a state in southwest India with a long coastline on the Arabian Sea.
“The water is right here, it reminds him of back home, because it’s a fishing town back home,” Joseph said. “He loved the water; he loved fishing.”
Prior to arriving several years ago in Fort Pierce, Kuruvanmackel worked at a family restaurant in New York.
“He wanted a change of scenery, so I said you’re going to love this town because the water is here,” Joseph said. “I brought him here and he’s been with me ever since, close to almost five years.”
Kuruvanmackel was a “humble guy,” Joseph said.
“If you didn’t have $5, he would give you $5,” Joseph said. “If you needed something, he’ll give you before he thinks of his self.”
Mack Etienne, 29, also works at Days Inn. Etienne remarked he sometimes went with Kuruvanmackel to a restaurant or to Publix and “he’d always know somebody there.”
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He called everyone his friend, Etienne said.
Joseph’s mother, Philomina Joseph, 72, considered Kuruvanmackel like a son.
“Everybody loved him, he touched everybody,” Philomina Joseph said. “That’s the kind of a person he is.”
The Josephs said Kuruvanmackel never saw his youngest child in person, who is about 2 ½ years old.
“They’ve only talked through video chats,” Jommy Joseph said.
Philomina Joseph said Kuruvanmackel spoke to his wife and children during the night in India, which is 9 ½ hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
Kuruvanmackel had a driving learner’s permit, and planned to take the driver’s license test in October, Jommy Joseph said.
“In India you walk a lot … Even though it’s hot outside, he would go walk to Publix, he would walk to Bank of America,” Jommy Joseph said. “Religiously, he would walk.”
Jommy Joseph said his cousin crossed U.S. 1, which has two northbound and two southbound lanes in the area, many times.
His routine was simple.
“He finishes work and he’ll go across the street there to (Crispy Fish & Chicken) and he’ll get … a whole fish because it reminds him of back home because we come from a fishing town,” Jommy Joseph said.
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Dylan Inman, 26, who works at Crispy Fish & Chicken, said Kuruvanmackel always got the No. 11 — the whole snapper with rice and beans.
“That was his meal. He never got anything else,” Inman said. “And he always tipped us very well. Always.”
Inman said Kuruvanmackel ordered ahead.
“As far as we know, we did have a whole snapper meal order come in (Sept. 11) and I think he might have been coming this way to pick it up,” Inman said.
No one picked it up.
Jommy Joseph said Kuruvanmackel made connections at area businesses, and routinely visited a nearby gas station.
“Everybody knew him,” Jommy Joseph said. “He would go, and because they can speak Hindi, he loves to speak in his mother tongue.”
Kuruvanmackel also spoke a little Spanish and learned some Creole.
Jommy Joseph said he last saw his cousin 4 minutes before the crash, which he said he heard.
He ran to his cousin’s room and didn’t see him. When he ran outside, he saw his cousin under the SUV. He called 911.
“I looked out for him as my brother and he looked out for me the same way,” Jommy Joseph said. “We were just so close.”
Will Greenlee is a breaking news reporter for TCPalm. He also covers strange, wild and weird Treasure Coast crimes in “Off The Beat.” Follow Will on Twitter @OffTheBeatTweet or reach him by phone at 772-692-8936. E-mail him at email@example.com
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