Little Village father, lost to hit-and-run driver, was dedicated to wife, 7 daughters

Eliseo Mendoza | provided

To his dying day, Eliseo Mendoza showed dedication to his wife and seven daughters.

Although very private, many people in Little Village knew the 86-year-old from his frequent trips for groceries.

“When there wasn’t fruit, milk or juice, he went out and made sure [his wife] had what she needed,” said Mendoza’s daughter, Leticia Torres.

And so, like any other day, he left for the store from his home near 24th and Albany last Tuesday — but was tragically struck by a driver.

Mendoza was hit by a GMC Arcadia driving down the 3200 block of West 26th Street, according to Chicago police. The SUV, possibly gray or black, from 2008 to 2012, continued without stopping and was last seen going south on Sawyer Avenue.

Police say the driver of this SUV is wanted for allegedly leaving the scene of a fatal crash Nov. 24, 2020, in the 3200 block of West 26th Street. | Chicago police

Paramedics took Mendoza to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he died later from his injuries, authorities said.

“It was heartbreaking,” Torres said. “Some things you just can’t believe until they sink in.”

A $5,000 reward has been put up in search of the driver by Torres and community activist Raul Montes, Jr.

“I’m asking anyone who saw anything to come forward,” she said. “We’re not here to judge [the driver] but we have questions: Did you see him?”

Mendoza was born in Mexico and moved to Chicago, where he became a naturalized citizen, Torres said. He was a humble and hard working man — laboring in a factory — and helping raise his family.

“Everyone around the hood — because we lived here for so many years — knew who he was,” Torres said. “Even when we moved to another street, everywhere he walked, they knew who he was.”

And yet Mendoza could be very private and often kept to himself. But during meals, “he could talk about anything. … There was always something he wanted to share,” Torres said.

Mendoza was also temperate and treated his family with admiration.

“I never saw him drink. He was dedicated to us,” Torres said. “There was a great respect between us. He was a dedicated guy. That’s who he was. … We were all girls, and he respected us in our own way. We know that he loved us all.”

Last Tuesday, Torres was called by her sister shortly after noon with news that her dad was hospitalized after the crash. Ten minutes later, she was called again and told he didn’t survive surgery.

“I said, ‘It can’t be,’” Torres recalled. “I started praying, saying, “God, give me a chance to see him, to hug him — just one more chance.’ Of course, I was shaking. My mind was praying, just asking for an opportunity.”

“But, as a Christian, as a follower of Jesus, I understood something: that God wanted me to stay with the memory of the last I saw him. Just sitting at the table, sharing some time with him. And when I had to leave, I remember him saying, ‘God bless you, daughter.’ And I said I’d come back soon. And he smiled at me,” she said.

Police asked anyone with tips to call detectives in the Major Accident Investigation Unit at (312) 745-4521.

Services were held.