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wyliepoon

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OBITUARY
TheStar.com | Obituary | Ronald Alexander, 80: Ryerson's hot dog vendor
Ronald Alexander, 80: Ryerson's hot dog vendor
PETER POWER/TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO
Ronald Alexander, better known as Ernie, sold hot dogs outside Ryerson University for 25 years after a successful career in engineering.


'Ernie' swapped a career in fibre optics for a life as Ryerson's curbside caterer
Nov 16, 2007 04:30 AM
Louise Brown
Education Reporter

Ernie the hot dog guy, mustachioed master of mystery and downtown icon for a quarter-century, has died.

Born Ronald Keith Alexander but dubbed Ernie for his likeness to the Sesame Street character, the 80-year-old had swapped a marketing career in fibre optics for a second career selling sausages on the Ryerson University campus, where he became a fixture on the corner of Gould and Victoria Sts. serving wit and wieners to generations of students.

For 25 years, Ernie kept his real name as secret as his degree in electrical engineering from the University of Toronto, while he cultivated a homespun image as the curbside caterer with the personal touch. He played music to dine by from his hot dog cart, offered free "after-dinner" jujubes and insisted his homemade secret sauce came from "herbs and spices picked from the forks of the Credit at midnight."

He died Wednesday night in hospital from medical complications just 18 months after hanging up his beloved barbecue apron, but not before leaving a bursary fund for needy students of almost $27,000.

"Ernie was a vibrant part of campus life for more than 25 years and a very generous friend," said Ryerson President Sheldon Levy yesterday. "He loved Ryerson students. We're going to miss him greatly."

The father of four and grandfather of two had dedicated the proceeds of sales one day a year to a fund that would give a needy Ryerson student an extra $500 during second semester when money might be getting tight.

"He donated free hot dogs every year to our school fundraisers," said his daughter, Gail Alexander, a Grade 1 teacher at Dallington Public School near Sheppard Ave. and Don Mills Rd.

"When we were growing up, he was really into cutting-edge fibre optics; he travelled the world from Russia to Japan and brought us presents from wherever he went," said his daughter. But then Ernie suddenly left what he called the "corporate rat race" to run a hot dog stand on the Ryerson campus.

Troubled by illness – he was a leukemia survivor who later battled prostate cancer, diabetes, kidney disease and heart failure – Ernie had fallen on hard times after leaving the hot dog business and spent several weeks in homeless shelters until settling into Liberty Place Retirement Home on Kingston Rd.

He leaves daughters Gail, Karen and Janis, son Dennis, grandchildren Reid and Mackenzie, sister Claudette Dunn and his former wife, Betty Alexander.


In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to Ernie's Bursary Fund at Ryerson University, by phoning 416-979-5000 ext 6516 or online at www.ryerson.ca/supporting/annualfund.

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The article describes what must been a rich and eventful life. How many people have sold hot dogs after a career in engineering? How many have beaten leukemia, prostate cancer, diabetes, kidney disease and heart failure? What a personality. I just hope that one day I'll be able to make or find a sauce from forks of the Credit spices that's edible.
 
Ernie had fallen on hard times after leaving the hot dog business and spent several weeks in homeless shelters until settling into Liberty Place Retirement Home on Kingston Rd.

That sounds really quite an awful end. RIP

AoD
 
Indeed. Four grown kids ( one a schoolteacher ) and he spent weeks in homeless shelters.

That also crossed my mind when I read the article in the Star yesterday morning.
 
Indeed. Four grown kids ( one a schoolteacher ) and he spent weeks in homeless shelters.

I'm sorry to say I've seen worse cases than this as a volunteer at a shelter in Chicago. Family bonds are not as as powerful as they should be in times of need for many of those that have found themselves on the fringes.

As a stranger to all that I have met in these cases, it makes you wonder about what this all means. But then you look at what you can do with what is left, and you file away the rest.
 
Independent man

Sounds like he was a man of his own mind.
Ahead of his time, simplifying his life from corporate marathon, simplifying it all.

In any event, 'Ernie' was a man who touched many lives. Link to an alternate photo from another person's blog below.

http://ahmedarshi.nomadlife.org/uploaded_images/Ernie_422-714382.jpg

I used to work at a pension benefit call centre and some of our clients, especially those who grew up in hard times, were fiercely independent, and didn't want to 'burden' their kids. We had to talk them into apply for pensions they were entitled to, but did not receive.

The stigma of receiving 'help' would prevent some of my clients from taking badly needed funds--so we really had to negotiate these calls carefully.
 

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