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TTC mourns death of 'napping' employee

by Hayley Kelman

The TTC employee who sparked outrage and ridicule when photographed sleeping on the job in January has died.

George Robitaille made headlines when pictures taken by Jason Wieler as he passed through the McCowan LRT station on Jan. 9, went viral on the Internet.

The photo quickly became a target for angry and frustrated TTC riders. The picture also entered the blogosphere, a joke amongst bloggers who photo-shopped the “TTC Sleeper” next to images of Humphrey Bogart and Homer Simpson.

At the time Robitaille stepped up, publicly apologizing not only to his co-workers but to the public.

He later divulged to the Star that he had health concerns that could explain why he fell asleep.

Soon after the incident Robitaille took a medical leave.

“He was very disheartened by the entire incident,” says Bob Kinnear, President of the Amalgamated Transit Union, 113. “It really bothered him that he had worked for 29 years with a flawless record, and had now brought these negative aspersions over the rest of the TTC employees.

“As many times as I tried to reassure him, no matter how often I tried, he took it very personally. At the TTC we’re a family, we work long shifts, we spend more time with co-workers than we do at home sometimes.”

Despite the public outcry and ridicule Robitaille suffered, he is today being remembered as a man who in his 30 years with the TTC was regarded as a compassionate and caring employee.

“He had worked for Wheel-Trans,” which provides accessible transit service for people with disabilities, said Brad Ross, TTC director of corporate communications, adding “he was always commended for his good humour, and that’s how we at the TTC plan to remember him.”

In 1995, Robitaille was proclaimed a hero after saving a disabled man’s life after finding the man at home collapsed on the floor.

Brian Mitchell, who has a rare lung disease and muscle disorder was barely conscious. He later said he would have died had it not been for Robitaille.

When asked about the cat-nap incident, Ross waved it off saying “I think that’s old news. I don’t think it does any justice to his career at the TTC, nor remembering his life and it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to comment on.

“It happened, it was dealt with we’ve moved on,” said Ross. “We certainly aren’t going to rekindle events of last winter”

Robitaille died Saturday after reportedly suffering a stroke.




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