Nova Scotia

Wray Hart, a 'very kind' fixture of downtown Halifax, killed by suspected drunk driver

Wray Hart, 62, who was struck and killed on a Halifax sidewalk Saturday morning, is being remembered as a fixture of downtown Halifax, one who often had a greeting and stories for friends.

Wray Hart, 62, struck and killed on a Queen Street sidewalk early Saturday by an alleged impaired driver

Gary (Caesar) Julien says he snapped this photo of Wray Hart in St. Patrick's Day in 2012. He described him as 'the kindest man you'll ever meet.' (Submitted by Gary Julien)

Wray Hart was a man who made a difference in his own way.

The 62-year-old is being remembered as a fixture of downtown Halifax, one who often had a greeting and kind words for friends who passed his perch outside the old library, or encountered him as he collected bottles and cans around the city.

In his final hours, he was out trying to help a friend who lived in the same building, said Natasha Pyke. According to Pyke, Hart went out early Saturday morning hoping to find some bottles so he could bring that friend some cigarettes.

"He looked out for everybody, regardless of his own situation," she said. "He helped everybody. He never said no to anybody. He had a really hard life and he struggled a lot but he remained positive, through every bit of it."

Hart died after being struck and pinned by a vehicle in south-end Halifax early Saturday morning. 

Friends of Wray Hart brought this sign to a courtroom in Halifax where Dennis Patterson appeared Monday. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

Pyke said over the years, he helped out many people on the street, particularly young people who were struggling. By Tuesday morning, $5,650 had been raised via the online fundraiser she started to cover his funeral expenses.

She said she hoped any extra money could go toward Romie Flint, who worked with Hart, collecting bottles for 25 years.

"This should never ever have happened — not to somebody like Wray," Flint said Monday at the small memorial set up on a sidewalk on Queen Street, where Hart had died.

"He was very generous, very polite. I'll always remember it. He was very thoughtful, very touching, he had a good heart." 

Romie Flint worked with Wray Hart for 25 years collecting bottles. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC)

Dennis Patterson, 23, is charged with operating a motor vehicle while impaired and impaired driving causing death.

Patterson appeared in Halifax provincial court on Monday, and was released on $5,000 surety. The judge ordered that he have a 10 p.m. curfew and stay at either a residence in Halifax or one in New Brunswick. He's prohibited from driving or consuming alcohol, and is expected back in court on Feb. 27.

Dennis Patterson was released on conditions that include a 10 p.m. curfew and a ban on alcohol, drugs and operating a motor vehicle. (CBC)

As the judge announced Patterson would be released, Hart's friends in the courtroom spoke up; one woman called Hart a "legend."

Outside the courthouse, Pyke said it was difficult to process that Patterson could go home.

"It still doesn't feel real," she said. 

As news of Hart's death spread, people posted tributes online to the man who was a familiar sight on Spring Garden Road, affectionately known as "Uncle Wray" to some and a friend to the many who stopped to chat. 

Wray Hart was a familiar face in downtown Halifax for many years. (CBC)

Hart was one of the first people Lorraine Glendenning met in Halifax when she moved to the city in 2005. Over the years, she said he would always ask her about her family and remember thoughtful details about her life.  

"Even though he did have mental health issues, he was remarkable, he was a very kind person," she said Sunday.

"I hope we find some way to commemorate him. I can't imagine what it's like to see the library next summer and not see Wray sitting on the wall with his trolley and his cans and the blue bags. It's going to be very strange."

Gary (Caesar) Julien described Hart as "the kindest man you'll ever meet" and the "hardest working man in Halifax." In a Facebook message, Julien called his death "a senseless tragedy."

Farah Henry, who often brought Hart dinner and shared meals with him through the program Supper with Strangers, said he had an unexpected sense of humour. 

"You wouldn't really find out until you started spending more time with him. And he was somebody that would make friends with everyone and he took a lot of people under his wing," she said. 

Cat MacKeigan met Hart 20 years ago when she was a teenager. They shared lunches on the steps of the library, chatting and watching people pass. Seeing the tributes on social tribute, she said it wasn't surprising to learn how many lives he'd touched. 

"He left an impact on a lot of people's lives," she said. "He always had a very positive, positive demeanour and attitude, and a smile about him."

MacKeigan said one of her friends recounted making a point to go by the library while walking home from downtown because she knew Hart would be there. 

"He was watching for people and he was watching to keep people safe. So she always felt safer walking home when she passed him," she said. "That was him, his presence was always here."

Last fall, Glendenning had worried about Hart as she hadn't seen him in some time. When she tracked him down she learned he had a new apartment. He had a fridge to store his food safely and had bought a radio, she said.

"He was in really good form. He was really upbeat … He told me he had arranged his bed so he could look out the window at the stars when he was listening to the radio at night."

About the Author

Elizabeth McMillan is a journalist with CBC Nova Scotia. Over the past nine years, she has reported from the edge of the Arctic Ocean to the Atlantic Coast and loves sharing people's stories. She can be reached at elizabeth.mcmillan@cbc.ca