OLIVER PAIPOONGE — Family and friends are mourning the loss of popular school teacher and car museum founder Russ Wanzuk, who many described as a "mentor and a gentleman."
The creator of Russ's Garage — a fixture at the Oliver Paipoonge Heritage Park — died Jan. 28 in hospital, about two months after he suffered serious injuries in a head-on crash on Oliver Road. He was 79.
While in hospital, Wanzuk experienced health complications while recovering from his injuries, his wife said Friday.
"It was hard to see him in such pain because he was always such a happy person," Elaine Wanzuk said.
Following the Nov. 30 crash, a 29-year-old Thunder Bay man police say had been driving a sedan was charged with five offences, including impaired operation, causing bodily harm and dangerous driving.
At the time of the mid-afternoon crash, Wanzuk had been driving a pickup truck, police said. His passenger, a 47-year-old man who was a family friend, was also badly hurt in the collision but survived and is no longer in hospital.
As news of Wanzuk's passing became known, accolades poured in for the Murillo resident and mechanical whiz, who sometimes re-created the automotive antiques that ended up on public display.
"Car enthusiasts near and far knew him as a gentleman and friend," one social-media post read. "At (the Heritage Park), we all looked up to him and enjoyed his friendship and help."
Elaine Wanzuk said her husband was happiest working on vehicles, often doing his own painting and fabricating.
She said they met when they were both elementary teachers, spending their careers in the Thunder Bay area.
The Chronicle Journal / Local Journalism Initiative