It was a line in Iggy Crotty’s obituary — “They expected he would die by age nine but God was not ready for him at that time.”
It’s a sentence with heart-stealing emotion. But there’s also a huge backstory in it.
Injuries from a hit-and-run car accident on Logy Bay Road on May 31,1954, were supposed to claim Crotty’s life.
But he wasn’t taken until 2019 — March 10 to be exact. He would have been 74 this year, had he lived to see his next birthday.
Crotty’s story got lots of media attention back in the mid-1950s. His story was also retold in The Telegram in 2015.
The driver in the hit-and-run was never caught.
There were no new leads after that 2015 update either, said Crotty’s sister, Faith Piccolo, who remembers very clearly the Mountie coming to the door — Logy Bay Road at the time was outside the city limits.
“No one ever came forward. The police didn’t do much investigating is the impression we got. … It’s a mystery to this day,” Piccolo said Friday.
There remains some sentiment that the driver of the black Hudson Hornet could have had some power or influence, but no clues ever materialized.
That no one ever had to atone for the crime never played on Crotty — he lived a happy life and was known to many.
“He never had a care in the world,” said Piccolo, one of seven siblings.
She said they felt lucky to have had him for all those years. The family made sure his needs were met.
Though he survived the accident — he spent 116 days in a coma and had a long recovery afterward that included many operations and trips to the children’s hospital in Toronto — he suffered brain damage and had a limp for years.
But all that never bothered Crotty, said his sister.
“He was an inspiration to most of us,” Piccolo said.
“He never regretted … he just lived his life. He thought he was normal and didn’t see himself as handicapped, as any way challenged.”
“I don’t know if we looked after him or he looked after us,” Walter Crotty said of his brother. “The thing is that Ig was a fellow who was dealt a pretty bad hand of cards. Boy, he made the absolute best of a bad hand. He was a fellow who never dwelled on what happened to him. He accepted the way it was and got on with life, made the most of things. He taught us a lot — we learned a lot from him.”
According to the 2015 retelling of Crotty’s story by now SaltWire Network senior managing editor Steve Bartlett, Crotty was among a group of young boys returning from a trouting trip when the black Hudson Hornet came toward them in a snake-like pattern down Logy Bay Road toward Kenna’s Hill.
Crotty didn’t make it into the ditch in time like his companions.
The Hornet continued down Logy Bay Road for a couple of hundred feet before it stopped.
The car braked at the Bally Haly golf course turnoff. The driver's door opened and the driver looked at the young boy lying on the road.
The image of Iggy Crotty lying on the dirt road and the car stopping on the wrong side of the road and then taking off is forever burned on Walter Crotty’s mind. The area — blocked with houses now — wasn’t developed back then, and was basically a sandpit, he recalled Friday.
Walter Crotty figures the car that hit Iggy Crotty probably missed him by inches.
“He was taking both sides of the road,” Walter said of the driver’s weaving trajectory.
Walter called out a warning, but Iggy didn’t have time to dive out of the way.
Well wishes for Crotty’s recovery flooded in from everywhere — as far away as Spain, Portugal and India, according to a 1955 Evening Telegram weekend magazine article.
The catastrophic effect of the accident was detailed in Piccolo’s eulogy about Crotty.
Crotty was just eight when he went fishing with his brother and their friends at Emerson’s Pond that day, and they were headed home with a few rainbow trout on a stick. But it would be a year before he got back home again.
The accident happened so fast that the other boys didn’t catch the licence plate number.
Crotty’s parents, Leo and Mary, never gave up hope, despite the doctors’ prognosis.
“Every evening, Dad would wolf down his supper and he and Mom would walk to the General Hospital,” Piccolo recalled in the eulogy. “There they’d sit, and pray, and look for signs of life in their young son. Back home, their six other children, aged two to12, waited for good news. Many nights we were consoled with a bag of candy called Chicken Bones, which my mother would buy in the hospital canteen.”
The Crottys graciously accepted all the support and well wishes, no matter how extreme.
“Well-meaning religious zealots would come to our house with relics and icons, which they believed were ‘guaranteed to get your prayers answered.’ There was a piece of linen from saint so-and-so’s robe, a big, framed picture of a young Italian saint named Dominic Savio and statues that glowed in the dark,” Piccolo recalled.
Children weren’t allowed inside the old General Hospital to visit back then. So Piccolo, then just seven, her brother Walter, 10, and sister, Peg, 12, would climb the iron fire escape and stand in front of a particular window. Inside, the nurses would wheel Crotty’s bed over so they could all see each other.
“We’d press our snotty noses to the window, make faces and amuse him any way we could until the nurses decided he’d had enough excitement. We weren’t sure he recognized us as his siblings, or if he just enjoyed being entertained by someone his own age. His pale face would light up with laughter. And when they wheeled him away from the window, he’d cry,” Piccolo said in the eulogy.
Crotty’s work life was spotty, but he endeavoured to make his way — he and his brothers caddied at Bally Haly as teenagers. He worked at Memorial Stadium on and off, but kept getting fired for sneaking people in.
He and his partner, Maureen, hobbled — praying for lots of snow in the winter, and getting up at dawn to shovel out their customers.
“East enders remember Ig as a fixture on the corner of Battery Road and Signal Hill Road. He would hold court from the bench in the little parkette, chatting with all who came by. He knew them all, and all knew him. He didn’t look for faults in people, he just saw the good. He was happy with his life … a man of simple pleasures,” Piccolo recalled.
In the end, Crotty’s past injuries came back to haunt him — he spent the last eight years of his life in a facility.
A resident in St. Pat’s Mercy Home when his story was retold in 2015, Crotty had lost his ability to walk and was in a wheelchair. He suffered speech and memory loss.
Piccolo thanked her sisters, Peg and Mary, for their daily visits to him, during which they would feed and groom him, or just keep him company.
Crotty died of pneumonia, with his family gathered.
“He was the healthiest one among us for the longest time,” Piccolo said. “He died peacefully and we were all there with him.”