CHICAGO — Though he doled out treats from an ice cream trolley in Chicago and its suburbs, Ancelmo Solis' life wasn’t sweet.
Solis was an alcoholic and he struggled with addiction for decades, said Martha Rios, a friend who cared for Solis like a mother for nearly 30 years.
The 51 year old, who died July 19 after a beating, had many ups and downs in his life. At one point, Solis stopped drinking for a decade, Rios said. He was able to purchase his own ice cream truck.
But after a romance failed, Solis returned to his vice: “He fell back into the drink,” Rios said.
And that’s how it had been for the past six years, she said.
“He would regenerate and he would fall again,” Rios said. “His blood was poisoned.”
But Solis always worked. When it was warm he’d push his ice cream cart — on a good day a vendor makes about $60 a day. And when it was cold, he traveled around the Midwest doing odd jobs in restaurant kitchens, said Rios, whose family owns Emmanuel Ice Cream in Pilsen.
Solis didn’t have a permanent home and he bounced from place to place, spending many nights at Rios’s paleteria warehouse in Pilsen. Sometimes the Rios family would leave a van unlocked for Rios and inside he’d find a pillow and a blanket. Their business was the home address authorities used for Solis.
The addiction to booze ruined Solis’s relationship with his family and he felt alone, Rios said, though he was considered part of the Rios family.
Rios came to the U.S. from San Luis Potosi in Mexico when he was a teenager. He came for the reasons so many immigrants do — a better life. He attained legal status in the U.S., Rios said.
“His death, I can’t understand it,” Rios said.
She said Solis spent a lot of time in the Little Village neighborhood, was well known and was considered “neutral.”
He’d been sober for four months but the night he died, he imbibed, Rios said. The last time Rios saw him, Solis asked her for money and she said no.
Solis left and apparently ended up at an ice cream truck garage in Little Village — a place he hung out with his buddies.
Just feet from the garage, Solis’s body was found in the 2300 block of South Pulaski Road, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office. Solis suffered from spinal cord injuries after an assault and his death was ruled a homicide, according to the medical examiner’s office.
Rios doesn’t want to speculate on what happened, but she does want someone held accountable for the death of a man she considered a son.
The last time Rios saw Solis, after she declined to give him cash, Solis told her something that was absolutely true.
“He hugged me and told me ‘You will never stop loving me,”’ Rios said.