Marc A. Weinfeld, who assisted downtown pushcart hot dog vendors and sold boondoggles he wove, died Wednesday in Erie County Medical Center.
Weinfeld succumbed nine days after he was critically injured when struck by a car while crossing Oak Street during morning rush hour. He had suffered massive brain injuries in the accident near the Clinton Street intersection at about 7:30 a.m. April 8.
He was taken off life support late Wednesday afternoon in ECMC’s intensive care unit and passed away peacefully, according to his family.
“My only solace is that he died doing what he loved best, roaming the streets of downtown, running errands and greeting people,” Marcia Weinfeld Goode, his only sibling, said Thursday. “He was immediately in a deep coma from which he never woke up and in which he never felt any pain.”
Weinfeld, 58, was always willing to help the vendors and local restaurant owners who hired him to run errands, such as getting change at banks or ice for pop.
After the accident, it took authorities several days to identify Weinfeld, who was listed as a “John Doe” in early media reports. After The Buffalo News reported that it was Weinfeld, dozens of people who work downtown expressed shock and sadness over the accident, in which no charges have been filed.
The many cards and notes, even visits from hot dog vendors to Weinfeld’s bedside eased some of the heartache Weinfield Goode and her husband, Richard Goode, endured at the hospital. They arrived last week from New Mexico, where Goode – a Grammy-award winning classical pianist – had been on tour, after learning about the accident.
A concert violinist who lives in New York City, Weinfeld Goode said she could feel the love and concern expressed by her brother’s many friends.
“It felt amazing. It felt comforting. It somehow lessened the terrible burden one feels,” Weinfeld Goode said.
Weinfeld, who was autistic, lived in Elma with Cathy and Tom Dzierzanowski, who were his caretakers. Each day, Weinfeld took the bus downtown and then back home again in the afternoon, a few dollars richer for his labors.
He was the son of Naomi and the late Philip Weinfeld, a downtown attorney, who several years ago told The News: “Marc’s a good boy. There’s lots of boys out there like him and they are all good boys.”
Now Weinfeld Goode said she is planning a memorial service and though a date has not yet been set, she says she is considering a downtown location – possibly during the lunch hour – to make it convenient for the many people her brother considered his friends from having worked in downtown for over three decades.
“Maybe we’ll even have hot dogs at it,” she said, trying to overcome the sadness of his death.
Over the last few days, a poem she has been reading, entitled “My Son Johnny” by Anne Porter, has brought her some solace, she said. The poem is a farewell tribute to Porter’s late son, who had struggled with his emotions and proper social decorum.
“Perhaps if people could read this poem, they might derive comfort and insight into Marc’s life and his challenges,” the sister said.
Weinfeld, sometimes known as “the kissing bandit,” was unafraid to ask for hugs and kisses, like the character “Johnny.”
A verse of Porter’s poem goes this way:
“And you loved women, most of whom you admired
Quite regardless of age,
And whom you hugged with great abandon,
Particularly the ones in flowered dresses
And the ones with curly hair…”
In another passage, Marc’s belief that he was just another of downtown’s many workers is reflected:
“A little girl once asked you, ‘Johnny,
How does it feel to be retarded?’
And you answered gently,
‘I don’t know dear, I’m not retarded.’
Which you were not.”