RIP Edward “Popeye” Peacock

Edward Peacock Octobe 2021
October 2021 “I’m blind.”

“You don’t retire from the Angels,” said Edward “Popeye” Peacock, “you just go inactive.”

Popeye’s tales of riding with the Hells Angels may have been his way of warning people not to underestimate the prowess of a man just a bit over five feet tall and a few degrees north of one-hundred pounds. The stories may or may not have been true; he did appear to know quite a bit about the Angels during the Sonny Barger era. It may have been during that part of his life when he lost the use of his left eye.

Popeye was an enduring regular among the ever-changing cast of characters who frequented Modesto’s notorious south 9th Street, also known as “The Nine.” He claimed to have two wives, one of whom was reportedly killed by dogs in 2018.

Like many homeless people, Popeye was recruited by family members into a life of crime and drug use as a child. He said he started using methamphetamine when he was eleven years old, a habit he maintained until last Saturday, when he died at 69.

Popeye was one of the earliest to move in when Beard Brook Park opened for permitted camping in 2018. Like hundreds of others, he moved to the Modesto Outdoor Emergency Shelter (MOES) when Beard Brook was closed by city officials.

For the most part, Popeye thrived at MOES, at least until he suffered a stroke during an altercation when he may or may not have pulled a knife. Though he recovered from the stroke after surgery to clear his carotid arteries, it took almost a year to fully regain his powers of speech.

He moved into Stanislaus County’s low-barrier shelter in Modesto shortly after MOES was closed late in 2019, and left with his second wife when she was evicted for smoking in the bathroom.

Popeye at sunset, 9th Street Bridge
Popeye (right) at sunset, by Raven Partida

On the streets, Popeye was often the refuge of last resort for the most vulnerable among the homeless, including the mentally ill and developmentally disabled. All he ever had to offer was the shelter of a cheap tarp and the promise he would stand between a friend and a threat. For people in direst need, that was often enough. He was their protector.

He spent the last years of his life amidst the wreckage and woe of junkyards, cheap motels, and abandoned dreams, camping from place to place within a mile or so radius of sites near Modesto’s 9th Street Bridge. He died shortly after he and fellow campers were ordered to leave a location along Highway 99 near the Tuolumne River, when he suffered another stroke after relocating. Just before the stroke, he had gone completely blind.

Popeye greeted each day with a crooked smile that could turn easily into a sneer  whenever he felt threatened. He favored jaunty hats, an occasional eye patch for his damaged eye, and an attitude that said, “Bring it on.” Friends said he had checked himself out of the hospital shortly after being admitted after transport by ambulance.

He was brave and upright until the end.



Eric Caine
Eric Caine
Eric Caine formerly taught in the Humanities Department at Merced College. He was an original Community Columnist at the Modesto Bee, and wrote for The Bee for over twelve years.
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  1. RIP Popeye. You will be missed by many.

    Hearing this breaks my heart. You shouldn’t have had to live in the heat and dirt that you were living in. I understand why you were on the street, to make sure your lady was ok but there should have been other options so it didn’t end like this. I’m sorry I couldn’t do more.

  2. Yessirree writer you had his eulogy perfect you’re a good dude for writing a piece about him may your days be long and prosperous. Popeye was a protector of the people he will be deeply missed.

  3. Eric, as always you’ve summoned grace and compassion in the face of systemic cruelty. I don’t know how you do it, but your empathy persists – and it raises the bar for jaded souls like mine. Thank you.

  4. RIP Popeye. Another ICON of Notariety passed away recently, as a friend from Oakdale posted. The Wizard of Oakdale (not sure if he was homeless too).

  5. RIP old friend. May God be with you now for the kindness and protection you showed others while you were here.

  6. For ever our protector me and my kids and Lloyd will forever miss your funny self and how much you were always there for us you were not just a friend to us you were family rest easy Popeye you were one of the greats .

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