LOGAN SQUARE — Leonardo Franco-Salgado was the hardest-working man his wife, Nancy Torres, knew. He was also an exemplary father whose world orbited around his work and his children, she said.
Franco-Salgado, 42, died last week after a hit-and-run driver struck him while he was riding a scooter, police said. A driver in a silver Honda Civic ran a red light at 3959 W. Fullerton Ave., hit him and left the scene, police said.
Franco-Salgado, whose family lives in Hermosa, was on his way to a friend’s house to pick up car keys he left behind when he was hit, Torres said.
Torres and Franco-Salgado had two boys together, ages 5 and 11, and Torres also has two children from a previous marriage. Franco-Salgado, whom she met in 2010 and wed nine years ago, took them in as if they were his own, she said.
“He was an excellent father; a very involved father,” Torres said. “We shared so many traditions; our whole routine was around the boys. Our joy as a couple was around the children … even the ones not his.”
Already mourning the loss of their patriarch, the family is even more heartbroken no one has been charged in his death.
Authorities released pictures of the car after the crash, but police released a suspect without filing charges late last week, Torres said. A police spokesperson said Tuesday the investigation is ongoing and would not say whether anyone had been detained or released.
Similarly, a driver who hit two people in Wicker Park in August and fled has still not been caught, despite surveillance footage of the car.
“It’s heartbreaking because at the end of the day, the driver hit my husband and he drove off and left him there,” Torres said. “I don’t want to think of my husband laying there, thinking about his family.”
Torres is urging neighbors living near Fullerton Avenue and Pulaski Road or east along Fullerton in Logan Square to call detectives if they saw the car or have any information about the incident.
Anyone with information should call the Major Accident Investigation Unit at 312-745-4521.
Franco-Salgado’s sister has launched a GoFundMe fundraiser to help the family with therapy for their children and other expenses to support them during this difficult time. They are hoping to raise $5,000.
“No one is responsible for the crash and that’s another pain we are going through,” his sister, Jaidet Rueda, wrote in Spanish. “It’s not easy for us and we want to help my sister-in-law with some money now that my nephews depend on her only for everything.”
Franco-Salgado, originally from Mexico, installed carpet for various clients, many of whom he worked with for 15 years, his wife said. He worked for big-name carpet companies such as Luna and Empire, but hustled on the side and opened his own carpeting business in 2012, Torres said.
Coming from a single-parent household, Franco-Salgado had a strong work ethic and ambition, and did everything to provide for his family, Torres said.
“He would sing on buses in Mexico, at 5 years old, to make a few pesos,” she said. “He used to carry womens’ grocery bags at the mercado to earn some money … I always knew that I had met, dated and married a very hard-working man, who worked hard until his very last day.”
On Saturday, the day before his death, her husband got his work van repainted. He was proud because it looked like a new van, she said. His neighbors and friends showered him with compliments, and then he spent the evening with a close friend. Later, he realized he could not find his van keys, which he needed so he could move his van.
“He was just going to look for his [keys] at his friend’s who was one block north of where the incident happened,” she said. “To this moment, his friend is saying he hasn’t found the key … I never want to find the key.”
To help process their grief, Torres and her two children made an altar in their home to remember Franco-Salgado and keep his spirit alive. The 5-year-old keeps asking, “Where is papi?” and Torres replies with, “Papi is asleep and now he’s in heaven.”
“My son is walking around saying, ‘Mi papi está en el cielo’ …. he crawled under the casket at the end of the wake, so he knows what’s going on,” she said. “We are waking up every morning and I’m teaching them to go to the altar and say, ‘Buenos días, papi’ and they change the glass of water for him.”
October is a special month for the couple, marking their ninth wedding anniversary. The family celebrated early with a trip to San Diego over the summer, but last week, Torres was left to plan a funeral.
Torres is grateful for the support of her friends, family and neighbors who are helping her navigate life after her husband’s death, and she hopes to get her children into therapy as soon as possible so they can process their emotions as they come, she said.
“Our whole family unit is missing him — he was a big piece of it because he loved his sons and he loved loved my children,” she said. “They need incredible support.”