Steve Fonyo, lost leg to cancer and ran across Canada to raise funds, dead at 56

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He completed a cross-country marathon to raise money for cancer research, five years after Terry Fox attempted the same

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Steve Fonyo, who lost his leg to cancer as a child and ran a marathon across Canada to raise millions for cancer research, has died.

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He was 56 years old.

Fonyo’s niece, Melody Kruppa, said he had what appeared to be a seizure in a hotel room in Burnaby, British Columbia, on Friday and paramedics were unable to revive him.

The cause of death was unclear and the family will have to wait until Tuesday or Wednesday for the coroner to assess the body due to the long weekend, Kruppa said.

“We are in shock,” she said.

“We are all waiting. We just do our best. It’s just really hard to wait for the coroner to look at him and find out what the cause was and if we’re going to be able to see his body. We don’t know anything at the moment. »

She said Fonyo and her partner came to the Vancouver area from their home in Powell River, British Columbia, to have her artificial leg foot redone.

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Fonyo lost a leg to cancer aged 12 and became a national hero in 1985 after completing a cross-country marathon to raise money for cancer research, five years after Terry Fox attempted the same thing.

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Fonyo was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1985 at the age of 19 – the youngest person to receive this honor at the time.

He was also chosen in an annual Canadian Press poll of editors across the country as Journalist of the Year in 1985.

His membership in the Order of Canada ended in 2009 following multiple criminal convictions. The decision sparked public outcry, with critics at the time saying he should be remembered as a hero despite his struggles later in life.

In 2015, Fonyo told The Canadian Press that he was coming back to life after decades of drug addiction, crime and near-homelessness.

At the time, the runner was back in the spotlight with a documentary about his troubled life at the Toronto International Film Festival titled “Hurt.”

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He said director Alan Zweig helped him see the things he needed to work on and that his life was much more stable after his troubles.

“I need to improve. And I do,” Fonyo said at the time.

“I don’t think they should have taken my Order of Canada away from me. I think they should have been more supportive, but it’s a two-way street. I really wasn’t doing anything for myself either.

On the final day of filming the documentary in February 2015, Fonyo was beaten and stabbed in a devastating home invasion that landed him in hospital for several months.

More than a month after the attack, Fonyo was brought out of an induced coma, but he still suffered from memory loss and slurred speech. His sister, Suzanne Main, told The Canadian Press at the time that doctors diagnosed Fonyo with a head injury. Main said Fonyo recovered from a collapsed lung he suffered in the stab wounds.

Kruppa, his niece, declared Fonyo to be his hero.

“He was 11 years older than me. I admired him,” she said Monday. “What I respected about him was that he had a lot of difficulties, but he kept going. He just persevered.

Kruppa asked the federal government to reinstate Fonyo’s Order of Canada.

“If that’s not possible, I’ll cut out the picture I have of his medal and place it on his chest at the funeral,” she said.

“If the latter is necessary, it would be a real shame.”

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