BRATTLEBORO — An 81-year-old man living on Old Guilford Road died in the hospital after he was found unresponsive in his home on the afternoon of March 15.
Officers with the Brattleboro Police Department responded to a home on Old Guilford Road at just past 2 p.m. after receiving a request for a welfare check.
“Officers discovered the residence to be without power or heat,” states information from the BPD. “Officers located the elderly male inside who was very weak and suffering from exposure to the cold.”
The man was taken to the hospital where he died.
According to town property records, the home was owned by Alex Nislick, 81.
“My brother was very good with his hands,” said Stephen Nislick. “He was very good as a woodworker.”
The Nislicks grew up in South Orange, N.J. Stephen now lives in New York City.
Alex Nislick graduated from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill with a Master’s in theater arts. During his career he was a member of the Teamsters and built sets for TV and movies. He moved to Brattleboro in 1979 or 1980 because he was looking for a more rural lifestyle.
Stephen described his older brother as a recluse who didn’t talk to a lot of people.
“He was like that most of his life,” said Nislick.
He also described his brother as an accomplished sailor.
“He built a 28-foot wooden sailboat called Summer Song and sailed out of Portsmouth, N.H., up and down the coast between Maine and Long Island Sound.”
From 1987 to 2011, Alex Nislick was a mental health worker at the Brattleboro Retreat.
Stephen said that in addition to being a mental health worker, his brother had an upholstery business until carpal tunnel syndrome took its toll.
“I was concerned about him,” said Stephen, who had not heard directly from his brother in quite a while. “He recently got sick. What he was sick from I don’t know.”
On March 14, the region was hit with the biggest snowstorm of the season, depositing nearly 20 inches of snow in the Brattleboro area.
Nislick said he had spoken with doctors and it didn’t appear the snowstorm had contributed to the death of his brother, though when he was found he appeared to have frostbite.
“He was only without power for one day,” he said.
According to Green Mountain Power, that neighborhood had a power outage from March 14 through March 16.
Peter “Fish” Case, radio personality and new member of the Brattleboro Select Board, said he called for a welfare check after walking his dog past the home.
“I would typically see him, four or five times a week coming up and down the road in his truck,” he said. “I didn’t see any ruts in the snow in his driveway or anything, so I realized he hadn’t left in a while.”
An ambulance and an engine responded to the home with the Brattleboro Police Department because the front door was locked with a deadbolt and needed to be knocked open, explained Brattleboro Fire Chief Leonard Howard.
He said upon entry, responders found a home that in was disarray.
“They shut the propane off because we weren’t sure if the smell was propane or something else in the house,” said Howard, adding that responders had to shovel snow and trash from the front walk to get the man out on a stretcher.
He said the town’s health officer had not received any complaints about the home, and even if he had, the health officer has no jurisdiction because it’s private property. Upon receiving a complaint, the department typically reaches out to a family member and notifies them about the condition of the property.
“If it’s not a public nuisance or a health hazard to the immediate neighbors, there’s nothing we can do,” said Howard.