Woodbine Man

Woodbine Man
I don’t usually re-post photos, but today I’m making an exception because of an incredible and touching series of emails I received a couple of days ago. The emails were in reference to the above photo, which I had hastily named “Woodbine Man” a few years ago. They were from the sister-in-law of the man pictured in the photograph.

She informed me the Woodbine Man in question was named Mike Murphy, and that he had passed away just before Christmas 2010. She and her family quite accidentally stumbled upon the photo when they were eating at a Portage Avenue restaurant, where the photo has been on display for a couple of years. She writes:

“Your photo depicts Mike’s life which was for the most part a walk down the boulevard of broken dreams. He battled addiction all his life and lived in many downtown hotels. He was most comfortable living this way and was drawn to the streets from the comfort of his home life with his wife and daughter.”

“Mike was 59 when he passed away Dec, 2010. He was the 7th of 11 kids born to Winnie Murphy. He came to Canada from Ireland in 1958 with his mom and 6 siblings. His dad was already working as a lumberjack in Thunder Bay area and his mother and her first 7 kids located in Winnipeg. His dad would come into Winnipeg once in awhile and Winnie had 4 more children by him.

“Despite his rough exterior he was a very intelligent well read man. He was a great bid whist player. He had a very kind heart and loved my 2 sons and all kids for that matter.

“He had a habit of lasting short periods of time living in different Winnipeg hotels despite the fact that he had a wife and daughter living in a nice home in Riverview. He was drawn to the street life. Til his last days he still met his wife for coffee on a regular basis.

“Thanks for this living tribute to our brother.”

After those amazing words, there’s really not too much I can add here. Needless to say, I was blown away by these emails.

Originally posted October, 2009.

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