The last time Bob Hosier saw his friend and neighbor Jim Pollock alive, on Sunday, he waved to him on the porch of his house on 708 W. 34th St. in Hampden.

Hosier was the longest-residing member of the block and its unofficial mayor. Pollock, who turned 58 last month, was something of a sculptor laureate of Baltimore, a legend in the neighborhood as the man who shaped and welded scrap metal — metal the city spit out into gutters, waterways, and trash heaps — into objects of beauty. If someone discarded it, Pollock picked it up and took it home and transformed it into art.

In his hands, the most unyielding of materials — storm drains, rebar, steel plate — were turned into something delicate and ethereal. Angels and fairies, flamingos, dragonflies and banjos. His work was physically demanding — this was not just the work of the mind but work of the body and the hands — and he could no longer do it. Not anymore.

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Over the last four years, diabetes wore away at his body. He lost sensation in his feet, which made walking treacherous. He often fell, making it unsafe to leave his house. He lost feeling in his fingers, which made his work impossible. Standing too long was painful, and so was sitting too long, so he alternated between both, living for months in the purgatory between pain and relief.

That day, when Hosier waved, Pollock didn’t wave back.

“I think that’s where Jim was, I get it,” Hosier said Wednesday. “I know he was in a lot of pain. He could be a moody person, but I love the guy to death. He will be missed.”

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Neighbors said Pollock died early Tuesday. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner confirmed Pollock’s death Wednesday and determined it was a suicide.

Baltimore City Councilwoman Odette Ramos, who represents the district Pollock lived in, called his death “a major, major loss.”

“It gave him a lot of pleasure to be able to share his artwork and his vision with people across the city and the region,” she said.

A younger brother, John Pollock, who lives in southern Maryland, is taking on the task of sorting out his brother’s belongings and executing his wishes. One of them is to be cremated and have his ashes scattered on the Potomac.

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In December, Pollock greeted visitors to his home, standing by the front door counting as people came through to view art he displayed in his living room every Christmas season. The homes on the block were lit up as usual for what had come to be known as “The Miracle on 34th Street.”

Pollock’s Christmas tree made of discarded hubcaps was the centerpiece of the tradition. He knew the tree would be a big part of his legacy.

Artist Jim Pollock in his home. (Hugo Kugiya/The Baltimore Banner)

The art he left behind will be donated to local institutions and museums. A lot of it is already in the hands of his friends. Hosier has an 8-foot shamrock Pollock made for St. Patrick’s Day, and a giant raven’s head with an eye made from the red taillight of a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air.

Deb Falkenhan, owner of the neighborhood hardware store on the corner of 34th Street and Chestnut Avenue, has a fish made out of metal lath hanging outside her beach house in Ocean City. Keep it outside and let it rust, Pollock told her, so she did.

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Pollock’s intimate understanding of connection to metal was something others did not always understand. To him, they were almost living creatures that communicated to him. He constantly foraged for it.

“He would see something so random on the side of the road,” said Heather Franz, a friend who lived a few doors down from Pollock. “And literally just stop right in that moment and scoop it up because he saw something valuable.”

After bringing it home, he sat with it for a while before deciding what it would become. He did not have enough time to turn all his finds into art. Hosier guessed Pollock left behind about 10 tons of scrap metal in his basement.

Lately, Pollock had been spending time teaching others to make simple things out of metal. He visited a local elementary school, his friends said, teaching kids how to make small figures out of bottle caps.

Last year he came into Falkenhan’s Hardware to purchase a set of utility knives for the students of a class he was leading at an art gallery near Patterson Park. He showed everyone how to make their own Christmas angels out of Natty Boh cans. His famous beer-can angels and bicycle-wheel snowmen can probably be found in hundreds of Baltimore homes.

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“Art and community helped center him,” Franz said.

Pollock said in December that “if I have good friends, I’ll keep trying to be around.” He changed his diet, went to physical therapy, and took medication to manage his diabetes, although he had become increasingly inconsistent about taking it, Franz said. Whether intentional or not, she does not know, but she guessed “he felt like it wasn’t going to help him in the long term.”

A few weeks ago, Pollock had lunch with Gary and Judy Siegel, who employed him for years at the now defunct New Arts Foundry, which created the bronze statue of Ray Lewis outside the M&T Bank Stadium. According to Falkenhan, Pollock told the Siegels his legs likely had to be amputated.

Walking his Jack Russell terriers, Chloe and Carley, was the last activity Pollock hung on to, but lately he could barely make it around the block with his dogs. He left them to friends.

Baltimore Banner reporters Cody Boteler and Lillian Reed contributed to this story.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call or text 988 to contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

Editor’s note: This story was edited to remove some information to better reflect standards on reporting suicides.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Bob Hosier’s surname.

Hugo Kugiya is a reporter for the Express Desk and has formerly reported for the Associated Press, Newsday, and the Seattle Times.

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