This weekend, friends and fans of Avtar Gill gathered at Findlay Market to pay tribute to the man Cincinnati affectionately knew as "The Hat Man." A staple at events around town, Gill was known for wearing a colorful, handmade sign fashioned into a hat using a posterboard attached to a ball cap and a Burger King crown.

Avtar Gill
Photo by 5chw4r7z

Guests were invited to create their own handmade hat to wear in a memorial walk through the market. Over 50 people turned out for the event with messages ranging from "Thank You Avtar" to "Support our public libraries."

Photo by Carlton Farmer

I made a sign using one of my tiny hats.
Photo by 5chw4r7z

My friend Maureen being interviewed by the news about her heartfelt Avtar story.
He found himself in a story on Maureen's blog, and then later recognized her in person.
She put Avtar's quote on her hat alongside his picture.
Photo by 5chw4r7z

Youth joined in on the memorial.

Folks from all walks of life were in attendance. In a way, it was reminiscent of the end scene from Big Fish, where a group of strangers gather to share stories about how the deceased positively influenced their lives. Among the crowd were those who knew Gill not only for his hats and public presence, but for his involvement in community organizations. One friend knew Gill for 44 years and spoke about the times they shared. Others mentioned his practice of faith. Born a Sikh, Gill later became a follower of Mahatma Gandhi promoting a peaceful voice and lifestyle, which evolved into an advocacy for the less fortunate.

This man was friends with Avtar since he was 16.

A woman received this stone decorated by Avtar for her 22nd birthday.

Sometimes, a hat says it all.

Another friend of Avtar shares a story.

Councilmember Chris Seelbach noted that "Avtar attended every City Council meeting, but never spoke a word. However, his hats said more than anyone else there."

Shawn Baker explained how he was overseeing an effort to collect Gill's artwork from his residence and create a museum of his legacy, similar to that of Raymond Thunder-Sky.

After sharing memories, the gathering marched through the Markthaus causing an eruption of applause and cheers from vendors and shoppers alike. Avtar Gill was a familiar face at Findlay Market, and the handmade tribute hats worn by guests garnered a wonderful reaction.

Myself, Maureen, and Erin Marie celebrate Avtar.
The Findlay Market employee in the background made a hat too.

Gill's family in Australia were notified of his passing, and arrangements have been made at Avance Funeral Home in Fairfield. A service is expected to take place on Tuesday, January 28 or Wednesday, January 29.

In addition to the Avtar Gill Facebook Page, a Hat Man Movement book project has been created, as well as tee shirts commemorating Cincinnati's Hat Man on CincyShirts.com.