'A devastating loss': London accessibility advocate dies after battle with illness
LONDON, ONT. -- 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.
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.