Francisco Javier Ojeda had a family who loved him.
Despite his struggles with schizophrenia, he had found housing just a few blocks from his older brother and a job at Home Depot, where other employees thought highly of him.
He was adept at learning languages and was fluent in about six of them, including Mandarin Chinese, according to his brother Julio Ojeda-Zapata, who said Tuesday night he regrets that he didn’t spend more time with Francisco.
Ojeda, 50, of St. Paul, was crossing the street Monday in Fridley when he was hit and killed by a car. The accident happened about 5:45 a.m. as Ojeda was headed to his job. He crossed University Avenue at 57th Avenue NE. against the walk signal. The car had a green light.
The driver, a 41-year-old Brooklyn Park man, stopped at the scene. Neither drugs nor alcohol appeared to have played a role in the crash, the State Patrol said.
Ojeda-Zapata, 54, a Pioneer Press reporter, said he and his siblings grew up in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Ojeda-Zapata came to Minnesota to attend St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn.; his younger brother followed him into St. John’s.
But Ojeda’s mental illness surfaced and manifested itself more and more, his brother said.
Ojeda became “very hostile” and “almost impossible to deal with,” his brother said. “He turned into a kind of a hobo, vagabond, all over the place. He moved from place to place — the Far East, Alaska and the Lower 48 — landing in mental hospitals, on the street and in jail.
Eventually, though, Ojeda came to realize that his life was better when he stayed on his medication. He found a social safety net back in Minnesota. He settled into an apartment in St. Paul and was succeeding at work.
Ojeda-Zapata wrote of his brother on Facebook Monday, saying, “He played the piano. He was a whiz at languages and kept giving me on-the-fly Chinese lessons. He spammed me constantly with YouTube links to his favorite singers; he once asked me if he was annoying me with the links, and I said, “Nah, it’s cool.” (The on-the-fly Chinese lessons were a little annoying, but I never said so.)
“I didn’t spend enough time with him. Honestly, we were never close, but I should have made a greater effort. Now I can’t, and I’ll have to live with that,” Ojeda-Zapata wrote.
The siblings’ mother and stepfather lived in New Hampshire. Ojeda will be cremated; the family will gather in New England later to scatter his ashes, Ojeda-Zapata said.