Their late father worked in a shipyard. She believes that “Ronnie” attended both parents’ funerals.
She could not explain the conditions that led to her brother’s downward spiral and his estrangement from the family.
“I’m 12 years older,” she said. “He was 6 years old when I got married and left the house.”
But she called him “a very intelligent boy and a gentle person.”
For a time in the late 1980s, Poppo worked as a roadie for the band SKUM, which spent about two years in Miami before breaking up around 1990.
In an email from North Carolina, former bass player Patrick Burke, a former Miamian, said band members would see “homeless guys panhandling, so we’d take them to Burger King, and say, ‘You want to work, take out the garbage and sweep up the parking lot?’ ”
They’d give them a few bucks, booze and dinner.
There were moments of lucidity with Poppo, whom he called Ernie, “because I thought he looked like Ernest Hemingway,” Burke said.
Poppo was hanging out “under a bridge off Biscayne Boulevard” when the band met him, Burke said. “He loved to drink, and we used to always kid him about the fact that homeless people always had the best heads of hair. Pops used to say, ‘It’s just the lifestyle, man — no bad chemicals on my head.’ ”
He was always wearing a Yankees cap, Burke said, “and he would take it off to show his locks to the girls at our shows.” . . Last time I saw him was at the Grove Cinema in 1989.”
On Thursday, the Jackson Memorial Foundation established a fund for Poppo’s care. Foundation spokesman Larry Clark said that “inquiries have come from all over the country.”
Donations can be made on the foundation website, www.jmf.org (click the “Take Action Now” tab, and then click on donations. On the donation page, select “other” in the Contribution Details section and type in “Ronald Poppo”).
Donations by check may be sent to the Jackson Memorial Foundation, Park Plaza East, Suite G, 901 NW 17th St., Miami, FL 33136; write “Ronald Poppo” on the memo line.
Miami Herald Staff Writers Jacqueline Charles and Deborah Acosta contributed to this report.