Gerry LaHay, a well-known advocate in London for people with mobility issues, has died.
The news broke over social media Friday morning as friends and colleagues began sending messages with condolences and tributes.
“I am deeply saddened to report that our friend and London advocate Gerry LaHay passed earlier today after a brief battle with a sudden illness,” wrote Lincoln McCardle on Twitter.
Coralie Waschkowski, a friend of LaHay's, was at his bedside in hospital shortly before his death.
“It’s a sad day for London Ontario for sure...He was an advocate, he spearheaded a lot of local groups, he was a civic leader and he’s going to be missed.”
LaHay began advocating for accessibility and mobility issues across the city after the loss of both his legs due to complications from diabetes.
In a previous interview with CTV News he was open about his own struggles before the loss of his legs and his efforts to get sober and begin helping others.
"I didn't really deal with the end of the marriage and I developed a drinking problem and one thing lead to another with infections and I ended up losing both my legs to diabetes. I've been sober for three years, life right now despite the snow is quite good, a great relationship with my grown children I'm very proud of them," LaHay said.October 2, 2020
LaHay was active on social media posting blog posts and keeping issues related to mobility in the forefront.
In Jan. 2020 LaHay began a petition for better sidewalk conditions in the winter, not just for those with mobility issues.
He also served on the City of London's Accessibility Advisory Committee.
Friend Steven Holland says, “He definitely fought for the underdog and injustices and he did a really great job in doing it for so many people.”
Jeff Preston added on Twitter, “Last year, Gerry LaHay came to speak to my class at Kings. Like many of us online, my students were captivated by his wisdom and energized by his passion for making the world a kinder, more accepting place. What a devastating loss for London."
A GoFundMe has been set up to raise money for his children and the Amputee Rehabilitation Program at St Joseph's Health Care.
It is unclear what illness LaHay dealt with before his death.
He was 53 years old.
Saddened to learn of @GerryLaHay's passing. His commitment to accessibility, both in terms of advocacy and awareness, made #LdnOnt a better and more fair community. My deepest sympathies to his family, friends, and loved ones.— Ed Holder (@ldnontmayor) October 2, 2020
A month ago today @GerryLaHay & I were enjoying coffee, talking municipal issues. But our chats over the past couple of years included being dads, coaching, movies & music as much as sidewalk snow clearing or committee work. His passing is a real loss for #LdnOnt. #RIP ��— Shawn Lewis (@shawnwlewis) October 2, 2020
The sun shines a little less bright today as we have lost our good friend @GerryLaHay
Gerry exceeded my expectations on what a resident can give their community through his kind & firm accessibility advocacy.
Thinking of all those who admired him, called him friend, loved him pic.twitter.com/36b6BDcspl
Really sad to hear about @GerryLaHay. He was a kind and wise man. I just read through our recent DMs — everything from political advice to parenting tips. #ldnont we have lost a fierce advocate & a bright light.
Your rest is earned. Thanks for leaving us a better city. ��