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TTC fare collector caught napping in ticket booth in January dies of stroke

The Toronto transit fare collector who became an internet sensation after being photographed napping on the job last January has died of a stroke.

George Robitaille, 55, suffered a stroke late Thursday evening and died Saturday morning, the president of his union local confirmed on Sunday.

A passenger snapped a picture of Mr. Robitaille asleep in the ticket booth of a Toronto transit station on January 9 and the photo went viral.

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The image of Mr. Robitaille, leaning back on his chair with his eyes closed and mouth open was posted on a Twitter account and numerous websites.

Some websites made fun of him, likening him to a Homer Simpson type character asleep at the switch from TV's "The Simpsons."

The photo became a lightning rod for public complaints about transit service - and workers - in Toronto. Transit workers fought back, creating a Facebook page and taking photographs of passengers behaving badly.

Mr. Robitaille publicly apologized. He later revealed he was on a number of medications including heart medication that contributed to him falling asleep at work.

Bob Kinnear, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, said Mr. Robitaille had worked for the Toronto Transit Commission for 29.5 years, and "for the first 29 he had a flawless record."

"George was even credited with saving a ... passenger's life some years ago," Mr. Kinnear told The Canadian Press in an interview.

In the mid 1990s, Mr. Robitaille was recognized as a hero, for saving the life of a disabled man who he had come to pick up in his transit vehicle.

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Mr. Robitaille was a dedicated, fun loving employee who prided himself on customer service, Mr. Kinnear added.

"The last seven or eight months had been very difficult on him and were somewhat disheartening to him that this issue or incident had occurred," he said.

Mr. Robitaille was most concerned about the effect the photograph of him had on co-workers, not himself, said the union boss.

That incident likely had an impact on the deterioration of his health in the past few months, said Mr. Kinnear.

TTC spokesman Brad Ross said Mr. Robitaille regretted what had happened.

No one should be remembered for their mistakes, said Mr. Ross.

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"The best way to remember him is "a caring, compassionate and well humoured man" that his colleagues remember him as.

Mr. Robitaille was on medical leave when he suffered the stroke.

He leaves behind a son. Funeral arrangements are still being made.

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