Phillies worker remembered

PHILADELPHIA - October 13, 2010

His name was John Merkins, a familiar face to many fans who've needed assistance at Citizens Bank Park, and he was much more to those who knew and loved him.

Donna Stankovich and her husband became friends with John two years ago after being drawn to his story. The Ridley Township native had beat cancer twice. In 1997, he was involved in a drunk driving accident that left him completely paralyzed. He was not the driver.

"He just made me thankful. He always made me see the best of everything," said Donna Stankovich. "He was a really close friend to me."

Being able to inspire and lift others is what kept him going. He would speak at high schools and colleges.

He also had a passion for something else.

"He was just lit up about the Phillies," said Eddie Stankowvich, "he bled red."

John died on Saturday after suffering complications from his paralysis.

On Friday, he was able to see his last game, which was his final status update on Facebook. He said, "I just got home from witnessing my second no-hitter in my life. This game was more electrifying than Millwoods. OMG"

Also missing him are his colleagues. John got to live the dream when he was offered a job in guest services at Citizen's Bank Park.

"He was a fan that used to come to the ball park as a fan at the Vet for years, and we got to be friends after seeing him there all the time. We talked to him about coming here and working for us," said Phillies Events Director, Eric Tobin.

His customer service job allowed him to shine his light on anyone who came to him with an issue; many of them also disabled.

"His was like a huge advocate for the disabled. With the new ball park, we obviously had a lot of disabled fans here, he was somebody who wanted to make sure that folks who saw him knew that they could do anything," said Tobin.

Those inspired by John will get a chance to mourn him on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. at St. Rita's Parrish in South Philadelphia.

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