Leo Schonhaut, 87, was killed Sunday by a taxi cab as he walked through the neighborhood where he’d lived for decades — a “mensch” known for winning marathons and rarely missing a chance to play his trumpet at a weekly music jam.
“I’ve seen him every day forever,” said James Eden, his neighbor in the five-story Greenwich Village walkup the octogenarian still climbed with ease.
The 45-year-old yellow cab driver was headed south on Cooper Sq., near E. 5th St., about 9 p.m. when he hit Schonhaut, who was in the crosswalk, police said. The driver, who had the light, remained at the scene and was not immediately charged.
EMS rushed the elderly pedestrian to Bellevue Hospital Center, where he died.
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“Leo comes and sweeps the sidewalk outside the store,” said Jeff Slatnick, 72, owner of the Music Inn, down the block from Schonhaut’s flat. “He’s a neighborhood guy. He’d sit out front of the store and play chess.”
Schonhaut’s friends at the Music Inn were stunned and saddened to hear about the sudden passing of a man who — despite having no children — was a grandfather figure to many.
Despite his age, the white-bearded Schonhaut kept very active.
“He was in great shape — he won several New York marathons for his age group,” Slatnick claimed. “Leo made these kale smoothies. He ate very organic.”
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In 2009, Schonhaut placed fifth in his age group in the New York Road Runner’s “Run for Central Park,” a 4-mile race, according to the NYRR website that offered no details about his marathon results.
“He would sweep the sidewalks like he was running a marathon,” said a man who identified himself as “Hippie” Lou. “It was like meditation for him. He was a mensch.”
People dropping by Music Inn on Monday heard the news with disbelief. “He came to our open mic nights on Thursdays to play trumpet,” Slatnick said. “He’d sing, too — songs he’d written.”
On Thursday, open mic night will be down one mensch — but held in his honor.
With Nicole Hensley
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