Rob Ford, the Toronto Councilman who came to be known as the “Crack Mayor” due to his drug use, has died at the age of 46 of a rare and aggressive form of soft tissue cancer called pleomorphic liposarcoma. CP24 reports that Ford died early this morning at Mount Sinai Hospital.
A statement from his family read the following.
“Councillor Ford spent his life serving the citizens of Toronto. The family asks that you respect their privacy and join them in their grieving and their prayers.”
A statement of great grief from Ford’s brother Doug read the following.
“My heart is ripped out. I loved Rob so much I took care of him and protected him from the day he was born. I miss him so much. He was my best friend.”
Rob Ford became known for his drug use in recent years, leading to his reputation as the Crack Mayor. He was never far from controversy. Other council members sometimes found his speeches offensive. In one such speech he objected to providing funding for AIDS research because, “If you are not doing needles and you are not gay” you won’t get the disease.”
Ford lacked the polish of most politicians and often found himself in hot water because of it. Before the moniker of Crack Mayor spread his name further than ever, Rob found himself in the Canadian news for things like accosting some fans at a Maple Leaf game while he was drunk and being arrested for driving while impaired. It didn’t hurt his popularity, though. People loved Rob Ford, perhaps out of empathy or sympathy.
Or maybe Rob Ford’s enduring popularity had to do with his unquestionable devotion to the people he served. He visited run down areas of town frequently and personally returned phone calls to constituents about matters big and small. Rob won a landslide victory in the mayoral race of 2010.
It was during his time as mayor that Rob became known on a wider scale for his admitted use of crack cocaine. But before that Ford was a loved mayor who related to people on every level. He threw annual barbecues at his mother’s house and invited people from all over. Rob accomplished a lot as mayor and seemed to really have an ear and a heart for people’s concerns and struggles. He once described himself in this way.
“I’m an average hard-working guy that goes to work every day, comes home to their family, takes my kids out, and supports my wife and family.”
In 2013, a story broke about Rob Ford’s drug use. Photos of him smoking crack with the Dixon City Bloods gang and the beloved mayor of the people had a scandal on his hands. It was the beginning of the Crack Mayor story that haunted him until his death. Photos and videos of Ford smoking crack, or obviously drunk and sometimes belligerent in public hit the internet and the airwaves and spread across the world.
In November of 2013, Rob Ford, the man who had become known as the Crack Mayor publicly acknowledged his drug use. He refused to get professional help and his behavior became increasingly erratic until most of his powers were transferred to the deputy mayor. In April 2014, another video of Ford smoking crack emerged and the Crack Mayor took a leave of absence, saying he was going to enter rehab.
True to his word, Rob Ford entered rehab and emerged a man committed to remaining sober for the good of his family and those he served. He began an earnest run for mayor and the campaign was going well when, just two months before election day, he was diagnosed with cancer and withdrew from the mayoral race, taking a seat on the council to give him more time to fight his disease. Regarding his battle, Rob Ford wrote from his hospital bed.
“With the love and support of my family, my friends and the people of Toronto — I know I will beat this terrible disease. I am determined to face this head on and return strong for my family and for my city.”
Rob Ford will likely always be known to many as the Crack Mayor, but he leaves behind a legacy in the city he loved that is better for his being there. Among Ford’s survivors are his wife Renata Brejniak, his son Doug, his daughter Stephanie, two brothers (Doug and Randy), and a sister (Kathy).
[Photo by Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Getty Images]