"He'll always be in my heart," said John Fabian, who identified himself as the victim's roommate.
Nelson's life was claimed by a hit-and-run driver. Chicago police said Tuesday Nelson was struck by a dark red or burgundy car with front-end and windshield damage, possibly a two- or four-door Pontiac Grand Prix made between 1997 - 2003.
Police said the car was traveling southbound on Cicero when it struck Nelson.
Although not a relative, Fabian and several others are part of the street family mourning the sudden death of the well-known panhandler everyone called "Pops" or "Uncle Larry."
"Had a birthday last September, has no issues, always panhandles outside, never bothers nobody. So, he shouldn't have gotten hit like he did," Donald Williams said.
Witnesses say the accident happened just after 2 a.m. Saturday as the Cicero resident in his 60s worked his usual intersection of Roosevelt and Cicero.
Juliana Williams and a friend were stopped at the intersection.
"As we're looking at him, all of a sudden, we heard a big, intense 'pow,' and Larry was nowhere in sight," Williams said.
Surveillance video from a nearby gas station captured the impact.
Nelson's friends say they warned him about working the corner late at night because he'd already been struck by a vehicle once.
"He was in the hospital for two months. The car hit him. He had brain surgery, and he got it in the back," said friend Wilma Berns.
Once a union electrician and plumber, Nelson became a popular fixture in his community despite his drug addiction, and he was even featured in "The Brickyard - Home of All the Junkies," a documentary film about homelessness and those battling substance abuse.
The film's maker, DePaul University sociology professor Greg Scott, says he hopes Nelson's non-traditional lifestyle won't get in the way of justice.
"His job, as he often told me, was to make people feel better about themselves," Scott said.
Authorities are asking anyone with information to call police.