Mark York, an actor best known for playing a character on the NBC sitcom “The Office” who was paralyzed like him, died on May 19 in Dayton, Ohio. He was 55 years old.
His hospital death has been confirmed by the Montgomery County Coroner Office. Mr. York’s family said in an obituary that he died after “a brief and unexpected illness”.
Mr. York appeared in four episodes of “The Office” from 2006 to 2009 as Billy Merchant, the caretaker of the office park in which Dunder Mifflin, the fictional paper company at the center of the series, was at home. His character was featured in season two when Michael Scott, Steve Carell’s awkward store manager, took him to the office for a harrowing meeting about disability awareness.
In this scene, Billy playfully answers Michael’s unsuspecting questions about his use of a wheelchair. But when Michael tries to equate it with a foot burn on a George Foreman grill, Billy interrupts, “You know what, Michael? Let me stop you right there … and go. “
“The letters I get about the character are great,” Mr. York told People magazine in 2010. A fan, he said, wrote that he “can shed some light on how crazy office politics can be” for workers with disabilities who are just trying to do their jobs.
Making wheelchair users more visible on the screen was just one of Mr. York’s goals. As a representative of SCI Research Advancement in Southern California, a nonprofit committed to accelerating research, he also supported efforts to find a cure for spinal cord injuries.
“He kept coming up with ideas for us and eventually an idea to contact the White House,” said Will Ambler, the group’s founder, in an interview.
In January 2010, Mr. York, Mr. Ambler, and a member of the Board of Trustees met in Washington with Kareem Dale, President Barack Obama’s Special Disability Assistant, and other government officials. Mr. York, an avid traveler, drove there from Ohio in his car, a red hand-operated Dodge Magnum that he named Roxanne that had more than 300,000 miles.
For wheelchair users, driving is a way of regaining freedom and Mr York “just took it to the highest level he could,” said Mr Ambler. “He was set free, he was free and he could go wherever he wanted.”
Despite not receiving the changes they proposed, the group moved on. Mr. York recently suggested approaching the White House again.
“He worked on it to the end,” said Ambler.
The cast of “The Office” have expressed their condolences on Twitter.
“He was a great person, a positive force and a dynamic actor,” said Rainn Wilson, who played Dwight Schrute.
Marcus A. York was born on November 27, 1965 in Arcanum, Ohio, to Glenn and Becky York. He graduated from Arcanum High School.
In 1988 he was disabled after a car accident. The accident gave him “a new life,” according to a biography on his website, and he graduated from Anderson University in Indiana with majoring in psychology, sociology and social work. During his studies, friends encouraged Mr. York to devote himself to modeling and acting, and he later moved to California.
He has appeared in television commercials and on the shows “8 Simple Rules” and “CSI: NY”. He also had an uncredited role in Steven Spielberg’s 2001 film “AI Artificial Intelligence”.
According to his family’s obituary, he had worked as an inventor in recent years and received two patents.
Mr. York is survived by his parents and three brothers, Brian, Jeff and David.
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