Locals called him “The Hugger.” As the Eagle reported after the Fourth of July holiday in 1902:
For several weeks…ever since the weather has been warm enough to tempt women out of doors, a man who is said to be a well known resident of the Bay Ridge section, has been prowling about the unfrequented streets and lanes in the dusk of the evening accosting every woman he met with insulting language and in some instances carrying his attentions to the point of physical violence.
Reports of these assaults and insults had reached the ears of the men of the neighborhood and for some time they had been on the lookout for the “hugger” as they called him. Several of Mr. [Fred] Cocheu’s women servants and other members of his household had complained to him of having been annoyed by the man. They said he always chose a dark place in the road and they did not know who he was. [Cocheu was a real estate man and civic leader who was instrumental in bringing the subway to Bay Ridge. He lived on 75th and Fort Hamilton, near what we now call McKinley Park but what was then Highlawn Woods]
A night or two ago one of the servants came excitedly into Mr. Cocheu’s room and told him that the hugger was standing by a lamp post in front of the Cocheu house.
Mr. Cocheu hastily seized “an Indian club with a flexible handle, and lead in the end,” which in police parlance would be known as a black jack, and ran down the road.
He found the man standing under the lamp post has he had been told, but was extremely surprised to recognize a well-to-do business man of the neighborhood, with whom he was acquainted. Cocheu was so taken aback by his discovery that he did not attack the man at once, but engaged him in conversation, not wishing to punish him until he was certain that no mistake had been made.
When Cocheu broached the subject of seizing and insulting women, without any warning the man made a vicious swing at Cocheu which, if it had landed on him, would have ended the incident then and there. But Cocheu is a trained athlete and expert boxer. He saw the blow coming and ducked just in time, dropping his hat.
The man started up Fort Hamilton avenue [now Parkway] at top speed, hoping to lose Cocheu in the darkness. Cocheu pursued as fast as he could, but the other turned out to be a very fast runner and Cocheu could see that he was losing ground. He reached into his pocket without slackening speed and drew out the Indian club. Putting forth his very best effort, Cocheu drew up within about 15 feet of the hugger and threw it with his full strength.
The missile struck the fleeing man just below the back of the neck, knocking him headlong. Before he could get to his feet Cocheu was upon him. He permitted the man to get up and then told him that he would first thrash him and then turn him over to the police.
The man squared off and lunged at Cocheu, but before a half dozen blows had been struck the real estate man saw that the other was no boxer. He then proceeded to trim him in the most approved fashion until the hugger fell to the ground exhausted and beaten. His face, according to the story Cocheu has told his friends, was unrecognizable for the beating he had taken.
Cocheu had fully made up his mind to turn the fellow over to the police, but the hugger wept so hard and pleaded so piteously for the sake of his wife and children that the real estate man relented and let him go.
Mr. Cocheu feels certain that the hugger will not be heard from again in the Bay Ridge section.
Note that he didn’t elect him president.