ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - Mike Powell never expected to be the person given the honor of holding onto his friend Rocco's ashes.
Following his final request, Rocco's remains are riding shotgun in Mike's Blue & White taxi as he retraces the route they made together at least three times per week. Rocco and Mike met just about seven months ago and quickly became best friends.
“In the short time we had our friendship he was really a close friend, and I look forward to the other side… having eternity together,” Powell said.
According to Rocco’s sister who lives out of state, several years ago Rocco was diagnosed with neuropathy and lost the function of his legs.
Powell says Rocco was no longer a paying customer, he was a companion with lots in common from politics to music.
“We would usually have it a lot louder than this,” Powell told Fox 9 over the blaring Creedence Clearwater Revival. “One of the things I realized was other services were making him put his wheelchair in [and] take it out go in the store [and] come back. I have a daughter cerebral palsy, I'm aware how difficult that is. I said 'Hey Rocco, why don't you let me go in the store for you, grab your stuff [and] bring it back.' And he liked that.”
When Rocco didn't call for a few days, it was Powell who found him in his apartment.
“I went and banged on the door until I heard him rustle and he made it to the door," Powell said. "That's when I found he was in a very bad way."
Rocco died 10 days later.
“I'm sad, but I have a hope and expect I'll see Rocco again,” Powell said.
During this last day of driving, Powell took Rocco to all their usual East Saint Paul hangouts, Mounds park being a favorite. Powell plans to release his ashes on Saturday morning at another one of their favorite locations and say goodbye to his friend for the final time.
“For me to come up here and see that eagle, it's like yeah, this is right, this is correct," Powell said.
According to Rocco’s sister, he was married at one point in his life, never had children and worked various industrial jobs. He lived almost his entire life on the east side of Saint Paul. Rocco ultimately died of organ failure at 49 years old.