Peter Bis, a homeless man known by the Capitol Hill community for his friendly hellos and "no skinny dipping" quips from his perch under a tree on the corner of Second Street and Massachusetts Avenue Northeast, died early this morning.
Bis was a familiar figure on the Senate side of the Capitol Hill neighborhood.
He took pride in the neighborhood he called home, protecting those on his block from people he thought were up to no good, and in turn, neighbors in the area would provide him with money, clothes and food. The community went so far as to find Bis an apartment a few years ago, according to an area office worker, but he didn't last long there and returned with his belongings to the street corner he called home.
Though particulars about Bis and his life story are unclear, a blog he created offers some insight into the conspiracy theories he believed - and would often share with those who walked by - including his claim that he was dating the late Princess Diana when he attended Kalamazoo Valley Community College in the early 1970s.
When news of Bis's death broke, tweets and blog posts offered condolences for the man many said could always be counted on for a friendly hello.
A pot of flowers now rests under the tree where Bis sat for years, placed there by employees of the Exxon gas station across from the spot.
"Peter was a Capitol Hill institution who was on his corner every day to wish you a friendly good morning or remind you that there were only a few more days until the weekend," said National Republican Senatorial Committee Communications Director Brian Walsh, whose office is just a stone's throw away the corner where Bis spent his days. "He clearly didn't have the easiest life, but it speaks to his good nature that there was always someone to buy him a cup of coffee or slip a little money in his pocket. He will be missed."
Eric Korsvall, director of administration at the Heritage Foundation, located next door to where Bis sat, called him a fixture of the Capitol Hill community and said his death will be felt by those in the area.
"While he intimidated some people, he was definitely beloved by many people in the neighborhood," Korsvall said. "He was very engaging and very spirited."
Josie Ortega, who blogs about her life on Capitol Hill, eulogized Bis in a post after news of his death broke.
"Pete was as much a part of the landscape of our life here on the Hill as the Capitol dome in the distance," Ortega wrote. "Thank you, Pete, for helping us feel safer in our neighborhood, and more at home in our home. Thank you for teaching us to bloom where we're planted. We'll miss you."
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.