Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Sunday, February 22, 2015


"I think there is a moral obligation here."
"But this is not a criminal investigation."
Toronto Police Force investigating officer

"I believe that cab driver should have waited to make sure he got in OK."
"I believe that is part of their job when dealing with the elderly or disabled."
Shawn St.Louis, friend of Mark Stroz, deceased
Mark Stroz, at 29, was young and full of life, before he became part of a tragic story that has left those who knew him heartbroken and those who did not wondering why.
J.P. Moczulski for National Post // Facebook    Mark Stroz, at 29, was young and full of life, before he became part of a tragic story that has left those who knew him heartbroken and those who did not wondering why.
Mark Stroz was 29, an energetic full-of-life young man who just happened to have been born with spina bifida. His friend Shawn, in memorializing Mark, thought back to the many times they had sought out each other's company. He recalls an independent spirit, with a curiosity about many things, nature and nature's geography and uncountable wonders. Some of which he took pains to photograph. He recalls the Stroz family cottage, fishing and swimming and kayaking together and just having a good time.

Shawn too was born with that deformity of the spine that ensured both boys would never be independent of their wheelchairs for mobility. But that didn't stop Mark from taking the lead in sports. He is credited with leading his sledge hockey team in scoring. And he was interested in the public social welfare contract, in particular making wheelchair access more important as a public good in a society that cares for the welfare of all its citizens, able-bodied, and not.

Mark had been out on Valentine's Day. And it just happened to be one of the coldest, miserable nights in February this year, with the temperature dropping to minus-30-degrees Centigrade. Without accounting for the windchill factor. Add to that blowing snow. After he left his friends on their night out, he took a taxi home to the grey brick bungalow that he shares with his mother in Etobicoke, a Toronto suburb.

He was next seen at 7:12 a.m. Lying face down in the driveway of his house. Nearby sat his wheelchair, tipped onto its side. With no vital signs, the young man was formally pronounced dead at hospital. Things like this happen all the time in a large city; they happen anywhere. A quirk of fate. Elderly people slip and fall on ice and concuss or break their hips, or suffer heart attacks, or have a stroke; some catastrophe that ends their lives sooner rather than later.

In the winter months cautions are publicly expressed for men in the elder category to take care in shovelling snow; the exertion proves too much for some and they never survive a heart attack that strikes them down when all they set out to do was the perfectly ordinary. Sometimes there is no reasonable explanation for people suddenly dying, involved in pedestrian pursuits like running in a race, running on a treadmill, walking along in a crowd of people. Things happen.

Neighbours of Mark Stroz, groping to make sense of the sudden and tragic death of a vibrant young man, focus on the taxi driver. "Why didn't that cab driver wait?" one neighbour puzzled. "He died in his driveway." Neighbours recall a friendly young man they often saw out with his large dog. Or busy heading off somewhere in his car after packing his wheelchair in back of the car. People who live with handicaps find the strength and the capacity to care for themselves in sometimes surprising ways.

And when they do, they have a deserved pride in their accomplishment, breaking down perceived barriers to strike out as much as possible on their own, for themselves, a credit to their determination and their will to make the most of the life they were given. Sometimes these people don't take kindly to unsolicited advice or offers of assistance. An intrusion that dents their self-confidence.

Mark Stroz in fact, might have resented anyone, including that particular taxi driver, the courtesy of waiting to see that he entered his house that night, without mishap. Who could predict there might be a mishap, after all? With a confident young man accustomed to doing things for himself, and being independent as much as feasible.

On the other hand, people are people; some are empathetic to the plight of others, and some are not. Taxi drivers perform a professional service for which they are paid. Time wasted by offering assistance is not in their business protocol, as far as many are concerned. Some are unwilling to help an elderly passenger claiming they are themselves plagued by health problems. Some are simply disinterested.

Police have identified which taxi service had been called to drive Mark Stroz home the night of February 14, but they haven't been able yet to identify the taxi driver. Under the circumstances, the driver will not in all likelihood, be appreciative of being identified, considering the public opprobrium; for him the prudent thing is to avoid being identified.

He performed the function for which he was compensated. Anything additional would be contingent on the receptivity of the young man in the wheelchair, and of the kindly disposition of the individual expressing concern, even in simply remaining there a silent witness to a young man entering his home late at night, in miserable weather conditions.

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