Mark York, Actor on ‘The Workplace,’ Dies at 55

Mark York, the actor best known for playing Billy Merchant on the NBC sitcom “The Office,” died last week in Dayton, Ohio. He was 55 years old.

His death was confirmed by the Montgomery County Coroner Office, which announced Tuesday that he had died in a hospital of natural causes. 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 the property manager of the office park in which Dunder Mifflin, the fictional paper company at the center of the series, was at home. His character, Billy Merchant, who was paraplegic like Mr. York, was featured in season two when Michael Scott, Steve Carell’s awkward store manager, invited him to a harrowing meeting about disability awareness.

In the scene, Mr. York’s character playfully answers Michael’s unsuspecting questions about his wheelchair use. 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, saying a fan wrote that he “can shed 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. He also supported efforts to find a cure for spinal cord injury and acted as the Southern California representative for SCI Research Advancement, a nonprofit foundation that seeks to fund human clinical trials of non-embryonic stem cell treatments.

In January 2010, Mr. York and two members of the Foundation’s board of directors met with Kareem Dale, President Barack Obama’s Special Assistant on Disability Policy, and other government officials.

“Despite being paraplegic since 1988, he had such an outgoing, uplifting, positive attitude and personality,” said Mr. York’s obituary. “He’s always tried to see what he can achieve and do, not what he can’t do.”

Marcus A. York was born on November 27, 1965 in Arcanum, Ohio, and 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.

In addition to television commercials, Mr. York appeared on the shows “8 Simple Rules” and “CSI: NY”. He also had an uncredited role in the 2001 film “AI Artificial Intelligence”.

According to his obituary, he had worked as an inventor in recent years and received two patents.

Mr. York is survived by his parents, Glenn and Becky York, and three brothers, Brian, Jeff and David.

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