Wayne Joice is a man who knows you can’t trust everything you read.
Joice was in the Toronto General Hospital last month when a nurse told him the Beach Metro News had just published a letter saying he had died.
“I didn’t believe it,” he says.
The letter was a tribute by one of the many Beach residents who knows Joice by his nickname, ‘Hollywood,’ or simply as Wayne – the man who has sold pens at the corner of Queen Street and Lee Avenue for more than 25 years.
When Wayne stopped showing up at the corner in late April, she got worried. Disabilities, bad weather, kidney dialysis – nothing had ever kept Wayne away from work before.
When she finally asked about him at the Foodland grocery on the corner, she was told Wayne had passed away.
Last Monday, Wayne spoke with the Beach Metro News to set his story straight.
Although it didn’t kill him, the pneumonia he got this spring came awfully close. He is now recovering from a kidney-stent surgery and adjusting to life with the tracheotomy that saved his life.
Speaking at Toronto General, Wayne said he was so badly swollen when he came in that he could hardly open his eyes.
“I know I got here by ambulance,” he said. “That’s all I remember.”
Pat Pypher remembers that night – she’s the one who phoned for help.
“He’s lucky to be alive,” she said. “He’s hanging in there. For a little man, he’s stronger than I am, boy, to go through all that.”
Although they are not related, Wayne says he and Pypher grew up like brother and sister. Their mothers were good friends.
“She’s a terrific lady,” he said. “I love her with all my heart.”
Pypher was already an old friend of Wayne’s when he first got into the pen-selling business.
He was following his father, who was blind and who used to play a mouth organ outside Honest Ed’s until an illness made him switch to selling pencils.
“I expanded,” Wayne said, smiling. “I moved it up a bit, selling pens.”
Over the years, as Wayne kept coming to the Beach, Pypher twice helped him to find better apartments, the last one just down the hall from her own. As his legal next-of-kin, she has also helped him through medical issues and a few scrapes with the law.
And six years ago, it was Pypher who made sure Wayne could quit dialysis by donating a kidney to him.
“My poor husband – he was the last one to find out,” she says. “I told him I was going on holiday.”
In the next few weeks, Wayne will move from Toronto General to Bridgepoint, a rehabilitation centre where he can get 24-hour nursing care.
Pypher says it’s a good place, where he will have more independence and a level of healthcare beyond what she can provide. But neither of them is totally happy about it.
“I can’t go to my real home,” Wayne said. “I’m upset about that part. I can’t accept it yet.”
“He likes Queen and Lee,” Pypher explained. “He likes the people there.”
Wayne says people from the Beach are more likely to stop and say hi.
As if to prove the point, on Monday a Beach resident recovering from open-heart surgery came over to tell Wayne how glad he was to see him doing well and ask why he wasn’t at work.
“Are we going to be in Bridgepoint together?” he asked. “I’ll have to look for you.”
The week before, Jennifer Butterly, also a Beach resident, crossed the street to say hi to Wayne after spotting him from Princess Margaret Hospital, amazed to see him very much alive and trying to sell pens on University Avenue.
Asked what he would like to say to everyone who was worried about him, Wayne said he hopes he gets well enough to return to his usual spot.
“I want to come back,” he said. “I miss you people a lot.”
Update: Wayne Joice left Toronto General Hospital in September and is now making day trips to his usual pen-selling spot at the corner of Lee Avenue and Queen Street East.
Joice told Beach Metro News he is working hard to manage day-to-day life with a tracheotomy through a rehabilitation program at the Toronto Grace Health Centre and hopes he can move back to his own apartment by the beginning of next year.