By Andrew Macdonald
Wray Hart was at the wrong place, at the wrong time.
The veteran Spring Garden Road panhandler, who stood near his friend, the likeness of Winston Churchill for decades, died this past week after an alleged drunk driver, a St. Mary’s University MBA student, mowed him over on Queen Street near Sobeys.
That was close to Wray’s favourite summer and winter time sleeping accommodations, a park bench.
There has been an outpouring of financial donors on a GoFund Me website, with an organizer close to raising $10,000 in donations for a proper sendoff, the traditional cost of a high-end funeral.
One donor gave $1,000; most others gave $10, $25, or like veteran journalist Cliff Boutilier, $50. The Macdonald Notebook chipped in, and a wealthy Spring Garden Road businessman gave anonymously.
Panhandling on heavy foot traffic Spring Garden Road is a reality in society, although many think it the scourge of the tony street. There are rather aggressive panhandlers, although Wray — also known as Ray — was on the gentle, benign and kind side of the panhandlers.
Some folk called him the Mayor of Spring Garden Road, given his daily presence in the morning at the old library, while folk jotted off to downtown Halifax offices.
For the 25 years I have lived in Halifax, Wray was a daily fixture on the street.
Wray had an interesting story. In his 20s, he told me once he was studying law in Australia when he came to believe that America’s Central Intelligence Agency was after him.
Wray certainly didn’t lead a charmed life. Persecuted by his own mind — and if you know folks with psychosis or schizophrenia, it is among humanity’s worst diseases — he fell through the cracks, big time.
He made an industry of collecting empty beer bottles and cans with his grocery cart all over Halifax’s south end.
While a park bench was his bed in summer and winter, in recent years he had moved into a rooming house on Inglis Street, but still was more comfortable sleeping on a park bench near the Sobeys store on Queen Street.
Because I have been treated successfully with two mental disorders, I had a special spot for Wray. Twenty-five years ago, when I first spoke to him, it became apparent to me he was living with an untreated mental illness.
I was deeply moved when I learned of his horrific death at the hands of an alleged drunk driver.
Wray was only 62. He lived on the streets and ended up dying on the streets. A beautiful live lost — tragically, horrifically and unnecessarily.
Rest in peace, my buddy.