LA MESILLA, NM (KRQE) - A devastating loss; that's how neighbors are describing the death of an elderly man found frozen to death on his porch.
Family members and neighbors said Ben Martinez was always kind and welcoming to everyone he met. Just days before Christmas, his life came to an end on his own front porch.
Ben Martinez grew up in La Mesilla, just south of Espanola.
"He was a wonderful neighbor," said neighbor Antonette Lovato. "He was always very friendly and very giving."
The 80-year-old had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
Last Wednesday night Martinez couldn't find his keys when he got back home. The senior citizen broke a window trying to get inside, but it was no use. He sat outside in the cold on his front porch for hours. That night temperatures in the Espanola valley were in the low 20's and in some parts just teens.
Lt. Robert McDonald with State Police said, "His daughter is the one who called his house looking for him and when she didn't hear from him, asked the police to go over there."
Police went to the home that morning after she called; the cold had proved too much.
"I was totally emotional. I really got emotional because it was a shock. We had passed that way in the morning and looked over there and didn't see anything, the truck was in front blocking the view, so for me to learn that he had actually died was a real shock to us," said Lovato.
Martinez was sitting with his feet on top of his welcome mat, just underneath that mat, what would have been his salvation.
"Was just feet away from the extra key to his house, and with Alzheimer's he forgot it was there apparently," said Lt. McDonald.
The mass for Martinez was held Thursday. His family plans to spread his ashes in the places he loved when they find the strength.
Martinez had run a local septic tank company and had worked as a janitor for the Los Alamos National Lab until his retirement.
Family and friends said he would do odd jobs for people for free or for food if they couldn't pay.
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