Stephen Charles Fonyo
June 29, 1965
|Died||February 18, 2022 (aged 56)|
|Education||Immaculate Conception School, Delta, British Columbia (to grade 10)|
|Known for||Journey for Lives|
|Criminal charges||See text|
|Spouse||Lisa Greenwood-Fonyo (married 2010–2014)|
|Awards||Member of the Order of Canada (revoked)|
Stephen Charles Fonyo Jr. (June 29, 1965 – February 18, 2022) was a Canadian runner with an artificial leg who was a nationally renowned fundraiser for cancer research and treatment, and a former Member of the Order of Canada.
Journey for Lives
At age 18, he embarked on a run across Canada entitled Journey for Lives to raise funds for cancer research. In doing so, he followed in the footsteps of Terry Fox. Fonyo began his run on March 31, 1984 and completed it 425 days later on May 29, 1985, covering 7,924 km (4,924 mi) and raising $14 million. Unlike Fox, who had to abandon the Marathon of Hope when his cancer returned, Fonyo completed the coast-to-coast run. He also completed a run across the United Kingdom.
He was named a Member of the Order of Canada in 1985, the youngest person ever given that status at the time. This achievement was marred by grief, as his father Steve Fonyo Sr. died of lung cancer the same year.
Later life and legal troubles
In 1996, Fonyo pleaded guilty to 16 charges for offences in Edmonton, including assault with a weapon, aggravated assault, fraud for writing bad cheques totalling $10,000 to supermarkets, and possession of a stolen vehicle. He was also convicted at least five times of impaired driving, and seven times of driving without a licence, most recently in the fall of 2008. On August 13, 2009, Fonyo, last known to have been working as a heavy-machinery mechanic, appeared in BC Provincial Court in Surrey charged with one count of assault. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one day in jail. He was credited for ten days already served. He was also subject to a one-year probation order. But just five days later, the 44-year-old was back in court, having breached his conditions. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 14 days in jail.
His membership in the Order of Canada was revoked on December 10, 2009. On January 27, 2010, Fonyo gave a brief telephone interview to CTV News from the Surrey Remand Centre, where he was serving the balance of his sentence on an assault charge after breach of his parole. Fonyo stated it was wrong to have his Order of Canada revoked, as it was given to him for something he had previously done.
On December 7, 2010, Fonyo pleaded guilty to threatening Greenwood and to unrelated charges of fraud, credit card fraud, and driving with a suspended licence.
In February 2015, friends and family reported to news media that Fonyo was in an induced coma in Royal Columbian Hospital after being stabbed by three home invaders at his residence in Whalley, a neighbourhood of Surrey. Doctors placed Fonyo in a medically induced coma for a month after the attack. Fonyo ended up having a traumatic brain injury, which led to him being prescribed medication to prevent possible seizures.
Death and legacy
While in the Vancouver area to have repairs made on his prosthetic foot, Fonyo died in a Burnaby hotel room, just after midnight on February 18, 2022, at the age of 56. Fonyo's partner since 2015, Lisa Marie Herbert, believed he had had a seizure, which his ex-wife thought was related to his traumatic brain injury. The cause of death is still awaiting an examination by the coroner.
Steve Fonyo Drive in Kingston, Ontario, is named after him, as is Steve Fonyo Beach in Victoria, British Columbia, where he ended his run and where he was later married in 2010. Fonyo Road was also named in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
In 2015, Fonyo was the subject of Alan Zweig's documentary film Hurt which covered Fonyo's decline into addiction and homelessness. It won the Platform Prize at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival and the 2015 Canadian Screen Award for Best Feature Length Documentary Zweig followed up Hurt with the sequel Hope, released in 2017.
Film producer and screenwriter Greg Klymkiw, who wrote an open letter calling for Fonyo to be reinstated into the Order of Canada, said “I was frankly appalled that some persnickety pencil-pushers in the governor-general’s office would have chosen to rescind this great honour for something absolutely amazing that Steve did at the age of 19. They looked at 30 years of Steve’s (post-marathon) life when he was suffering from depression, mental illness and addiction, and essentially, because he was ill, they used this against him".
Hamilton Spectator sports columnist Scott Radley wrote "Yet at a time we’re supposed to be more enlightened about addiction and possibly mental health problems, the near-complete purge of Fonyo from the public narrative somehow seems unfair. Especially when you wonder if this would’ve happened to him had he not faced the pressures of fame and expectations he was obviously ill-equipped to handle. All in the pursuit of raising money for charity."
- "Termination from the Order of Canada". The Governor General of Canada. 25 January 2010. Archived from the original on March 14, 2017. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
- "Fonyo loses his Order of Canada". CBC News. 2010-01-26. Archived from the original on January 29, 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-26.
- "Vancouver Magazine".
- "Steve Fonyo | The Canadian Encyclopedia". www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca. Retrieved 2022-08-05.
- Matthew Ramsey (September 13, 2006). "Steve Fonyo once again runs into trouble with the law". Times-Colonist. CanWest. Archived from the original on November 6, 2012. Retrieved 2010-05-27.
- "Fonyo stripped of this order of Canada". National Post. January 26, 2010. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
- The Canada Press (January 28, 2010). "Fonyo says Order of Canada should be his". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on March 7, 2016. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
- "Steve Fonyo charged with fraud related to credit card". CTV News. CTV. August 6, 2010. Archived from the original on September 18, 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-07.
- "Fonyo weds on Victoria beach". CBC News. CBC. August 28, 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-28.
- "Hero cancer survivor pleads guilty". UPI.com. December 9, 2010. Archived from the original on December 20, 2010. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
- Cooper, Sam (Feb 14, 2015). "Steve Fonyo in induced coma after home invasion attack in Surrey". Victoria Times-Colonist.
- Chan, Emily (2015-05-18). "Steve Fonyo says he's facing homelessness after brutal attack". CTV News. Retrieved 14 October 2016.
- "Steve Fonyo, cross-Canada cancer runner with troubled legacy, dead at 56". February 20, 2021. Retrieved February 21, 2021.
- "Steve Fonyo's legacy: Calls for Order of Canada to be restored posthumously".
- "Doc explores the life of Steve Fonyo, the man who completed the run Terry Fox started". The Globe and Mail, September 13, 2015.
- "Steve Fonyo documentary explores Canadian hero's decline into addiction, homelessness". CBC News. 2016-01-09.
- "Toronto International Film Festival Announces 2015 Award Winners" (PDF) (Press release). TIFF. 2015-09-20. Retrieved 2015-09-21.
- "Canadian Screen Awards 2016". CBC News. 2016-03-11.
- "Opinion | Steve Fonyo was terribly flawed, but pretending he never happened is wrong". The Hamilton Spectator. 24 February 2022.