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'Dozing' TTC worker suffers stroke, dies

by Tamara Cherry

The TTC ticket collector whose picture went viral after he was caught sleeping on the job earlier this year died Saturday.

George Robitaille suffered a stroke Thursday, according to the Amalgamated Transit Union.

“Here’s a guy who worked for decades with a flawless record and was even cited for saving a passenger’s life when he was a Wheel-Trans driver,” a “saddened” union boss Bob Kinnear said in a statement.

“It was not fair that he was subjected to relentless public derision in his last year of life because he nodded off on a slow Saturday night in an overheated collector’s booth due to the medication he was taking for the cardio condition that eventually felled him.”

After 30 years with the TTC, a then-55-year-old Robitaille took the ridicule that followed his January gaffe at McCowan station “like a man,” apologizing to the public and his coworkers, Kinnear said.

Robitaille took a medical leave after falling asleep on the job. Before returning, the motorcycle enthusiast and Labrador retriever breeder told Sun columnist Joe Warmington that he loved life and savoured every day, even the bad ones.

Robitaille was “a legitimate hero” who was “mortified that his health and medication that caused him to doze off made him a poster boy for those thinking TTC employees are lazy,” Warmington said.

“I saw him work before he was famous and he was the type who joked with the travellers, helped with directions and always had a smile,” he said. “It was ironic what happened because he actually was the poster boy for all that’s good for the TTC.”

— With files from Joe Warmington