Leea Mechling, the 65-year-old executive director of the South Austin Museum of Popular Culture, receives plenty of e-mails. One morning, she received an unexpected e-mail from one of her classmates. The local news had run a story on the homelessness crisis in downtown Austin, and one of their mutual high school classmates, Coy Featherston, was on the front page. It was very shocking because, back in high school, Featherston seemed to have everything going for him. Mechling and her fellow classmates immediately embarked on an incredible journey to find Featherston and get him off the streets.
What Became of Coy Featherston?
At first, life after high school had been nothing short of magical for Coy Featherston. In his senior year, he had been voted the Best All-Around Boy. He was known for being a popular student who was just as kind as he was cool, and that trend continued into his adult years. His athletic talents landed him a football scholarship at the University of Texas. Rather than finding a regular, corporate job, Featherston’s first post-college job was one that really fit his cool-kid persona: he spent a few years working as a roadie (i.e. someone who sets up concert equipment) for Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention.
Eventually, life took a hard turn in the wrong direction for Coy Featherston. He had always been a very caring person, and he was extremely close to his family. That’s why he took it very hard when his brother was murdered in a case of senseless violence and mistaken identity. When Frank Zappa stopped touring, Featherston settled down in Atlanta. He bounced around from job to job until one untimely layoff led to his financial downfall. He didn’t have enough money for rent, and he ended up living on the streets of Atlanta. While there, he got in a fight trying to defend the few belongings he had from being stolen. He was charged with a misdemeanor. When he got his legal affairs straightened out, he moved to Austin, Texas hoping to find work and a fresh start.
When Leea Mechling recognized her high school friend Coy Featherston in an article about homelessness, she was determined to find him. The two classmates were born and raised in Corpus Christi, but life had brought both of them to Austin at the same time. Mechling hopped into her truck and went searching for her friend. Everyone knew where homeless people tended to hang out, so she started her search in those areas.
For three days, she traveled around downtown Austin with Featherston’s picture asking everyone she met if they’d seen him. It wasn’t until the fourth day that she ran into her old classmate outside of a Catholic church feeding the pigeons. Featherston was happy to see her. They had kept in touch since high school, but this was their first face-to-face meeting in decades.
As soon as she could, Mechling contacted several of her old buddies from high school who lived in the area. Before the day was over, they all went out to eat together. The classmates rallied around their friend. Before the end of the night, they set up a GoFundMe page for him. Another classmate, who had once been bandmates with Featherston, offered him a permanent room in his home.
Other members of the group helped Featherston access his Social Security benefits. Although Featherston had previously been homeless for more than twenty years, his golden personality remained intact. These classmates were happy to come to the aid of a friend in need, and Featherston was eternally grateful. It would seem that the old adage still rings true, a friend in need is a friend indeed.
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