Published obituaries in the wake of Mark’s death said roughly the same things. The two that follow are representative.
Toronto Star obituary
Canadian Olympian defied odds; Medal-winning boxer Leduc remembered as ‘caring, giving person’
By Danielle Wong
Toronto Star, 2009.07.25, p. S4
Mark Leduc was not what people expected from an Olympic boxer.
Not only did the 1992 Barcelona silver medallist come into the world weighing only about a kilogram; Leduc was a gay athlete in a profession where homophobia ran deep and rampant.
The former light welterweight was expected to fail because he wasn’t recognized like other “star” contenders were, said Leduc’s brother-in-law, Mark Johnson. “They thought he would be the worst [on the Canadian team], but he knew how to hit people and not get hit.”
Leduc died at St. Michael’s Hospital Wednesday night after he was found unconscious in a local hotel sauna early Sunday morning, Johnson said , adding doctors believe Leduc had suffered a heat stroke that damaged his internal organs.
“We were shattered, disoriented, almost in disbelief. We just kept waiting for a miracle to happen,” said Johnson, who had attended Leslie Street Public School with Leduc. “He’s much too young.”
The Olympian was born in Toronto on May 4, 1962, and grew up in the city’s east end.
His younger years were troubled ones, marked by run-ins with the police and a couple years spent at a Kingston penitentiary. But things started turning around when he became a born-again Christian in his late teens, Johnson said.
The Toronto native went pro shortly after his Olympic success and retired after winning the super lightweight championship of Canada in 1993.
Around that time, Leduc also came out of the closet and was an active advocate for the gay community, speaking out in gay-rights documentaries such as 1994’s For the Love of the Game and volunteering with the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation.
“He was a caring, giving person [who] would give the shirt off his back to you,” Johnson said. “A hard-working guy that always reached for the stars.”
A funeral will be held at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto on Friday at 10 a.m.
The family welcomes any donations made in Leduc’s name to be made to the Cabbagetown Boxing Club or any program for aspiring boxers.
(The Xtra obit rewrites the [erroneous] facts from the Star’s obituary. But it adds this personal reminiscence from his friend Edward Zawadzki.)
Mark Leduc was gay. “Who cares?” was always my personal opinion on the subject. The only part of Mark that mattered to me was that he was my friend, a man who I respected and admired for not only his skills in the boxing ring, but his work ethic and courage that he relied upon to constantly get through a tough life. I had always heard from people that Mark was gay, but I found that even though many times he had to be outspoken publicly he still kept his personal life close to the vest.
I remember when he opened that part of his life to me – to comical results. It was in the fall of 1993 and Mark was working out hard at a dark, dingy basement gym in downtown Toronto with famed local trainer Benny D’Amico preparing for a fight the upcoming week. We were also waiting for the arrival of a CBC crew that was going to shoot a feature story about his upcoming bout, and we went outside to await their arrival. While outside, a great-looking, well-dressed young couple slowly sauntered by, most likely on their way back to the office after lunch. We both commented about the person’s sexiness and attributes. We then gave each other a quick look and cracked up laughing as we realized we were talking about two different bodies of this attractive duo.
Our relationship as friends moved forward in leaps and bounds after that moment, and I not only liked the guy but I respected his outlook on the world and life. Mark had it tough in his life – crime, drugs, prison, and, with it, the hard world of boxing. But humour, courage and an unmatchable sense of decency always had a way of lightening the load for this talented athlete and activist.