Fans of the U.S. comedy series The Office were today mourning the loss of actor Mark York, who starred in the popular sitcom as Scranton Business Park property manager Billy Merchant during its second to fifth seasons. York died early on May 19, after a “brief and unexpected illness”. Although the exact cause of death is as yet unknown.
The 55-year-old actor died at the Miami Valley Hospital in Ohio, and confirmation of the news was delivered by the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office. It is yet another sad death to hit the entertainment industry, with a number of unexpected passings in the last few months.
York first appeared in the Steve Carell sitcom in season two, and while The Office is well known for having a large number of bit parts over its 201 episodes, York’s Merchant was memorable enough that he was able to turn the role into a recurring one over the following three seasons. His initial appearance was in the episode entitled “The Injury”, when Carell’s Michael Scott asked Merchant to drop in on the conference room so he could make the comparison of burning his foot in a George Foreman grill to being a life-long wheelchair user.
York provided a brilliant show of comic timing, facing the moronic questions posed by Scott about what it is like using a wheelchair. The moment includes a cut scene where York’s Merchant confesses that he would like to “clamp Michael’s face in a George Foreman grill”.
York spent much of his life as a paraplegic, having been confined to a wheelchair since 1988, but anyone who knew him was quick to point out that he never let his condition stop him from having, “an outgoing, uplifting, positive attitude and personality”. The actor’s obituary added that as well as focussing on what he was able to accomplish rather than dwelling on what he could not, “He had experienced many travel opportunities and many dreams for the future.”
If proof of that was needed, it can clearly been seen by the list of credits to his name, which include roles in 8 Simple Rules and CSI:NY on TV, alongside an uncredited appearances in the movies Going All The Way in 1997 and in Spielberg’s 2001 Sci-Fi film A.I. Artificial Intelligence.
The actor was born in Arcanum, Ohio. After leaving the state to travel around the world, it was in 1988 he suffered life-changing injuries in a near-fatal crash that would have caused many to put their hopes and dreams on hold. However, York seemed to take a new burst of life from the accident, earning himself a triple major in Psychology, Sociology and Social Work from Anderson University, Indiana.
He also devoted a lot of time as a volunteer for organizations and causes such as The Red Cross, The United Way and the Spinal Cord Research Foundation, as well as being Chairman of The Americans With Disabilities Act of Darke County in Ohio, and he also worked with the Christopher Reeve Foundation Fundraiser as an Organ/Skin Tissue Donor Recruiter. While he will be remembered by some as a talented actor, it should not be overshadowed that he was also someone who wanted to make the world a better place for others, while he attempted to get the most out of his own life. May he rest in peace.