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R.I.P. “Doc” Payne

“Doc” Payne, 83, passed away Sunday, July 2.  He was a fixture outside of Peregrine Espresso near Eastern Market for years – soliciting change from customers and passersby regardless of the weather.  His full name was Earl Ronald “Doc” Payne.

According to his friend and Peregrine habitué Nicky Sundt, “Doc was born in 1940 in Washington, DC, and by the age of 14 was living on his own.  He learned how to box and was promising in the ring….But before he could get close to realizing that dream, he killed a man.”

“Enraged after his brother-in-law beat Doc’s sister, Doc tracked him down to the military commissary where he worked.  He chased him through the commissary and thrashed him.  His brother-in-law fractured his skull in the fight and died.  Doc showed me the scar on the back of his head where the Military Police hit him with the butt of a gun to subdue him.”

He spent more than twenty years in Federal penitentiaries for that. He subsequently returned to DC and entered a program that teaches “long timers” to live outside prison after their release.

In recent years, after a minor stroke and a long hospital stay, Doc had a harder time getting around and relied on a walker….when one of his many fans noticed that his old walker was in poor condition, she picked up a new one and dropped it off at his house. Later, when the walker became too difficult to manage, he acquired a motorized wheelchair.

Doc lived in Kentucky Courts, raising his daughter’s two teenaged sons, one of whom died about a year ago.  His daughter – who lived in West Virginia – died in an auto accident a several years ago.

He’s remembered for his unfailing kindness and positivity.  Sundt recalls Doc’s customary greeting to passersby:  “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood!  Yes it is, yes it is.”

During the pandemic, his friends feared he wouldn’t survive.  But he did.  He survived despite a host of medical problems and a life time of adversity.  And he never gave up.

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