George Marcello, Toronto organ donor activist, dead at 65

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Toronto organ donor activist and recipient George Marcello has died at the age of 65.

Marcello, who passed away on June 7, was laid to rest at Prospect Point Cemetery on Monday after a funeral service at St. Clair Chapel.

He was best known for founding the Step by Step Organ Donation Association after his first liver transplant in 1995 (he had a second one 10years later) and walked from Toronto to Ottawa’s Parliament Hill in the first of many walking campaigns.

For more than 25 years and through eight Torch of Life campaigns, Marcello wanted to bring awareness to the shortage of organs in Canada.

“The road became my home,” Marcello told The Toronto Sun in a 2020 interview.

His famous encounters included when former Mayor Mel Lastman put baby powder on his feet before embarking on a campaign, and meeting Pope John Paul II in Vatican City, who proclaimed organ donation “an act of love,” and blessed the Torch of Life.

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Marcello subsequently coined the phrase, “Don’t take your organs to heaven, heaven knows we need them on Earth.”

“I have never met anyone who gave more of himself to organ donation as much as George did,” said Reg Green, father of Nicholas Green, who tragically died in a car accident in Italy and donated seven organs to seven children around that region, in a Dignity Memorial obituary.

George Marcello, who received a liver transplant in 1995, is walking across Canada to raise awareness for organ donation.
George Marcello, who received a liver transplant in 1995, is walking across Canada to raise awareness for organ donation. Photo by CRAIG ROBERTSON /TORONTO SUN

George was predeceased by his beloved parents Agostino and Rosa Maria Marcello and is the loving brother of Caterina, Domenico and Salvatore (Mary) and cherished uncle of many nephews and nieces.

Just last year, Marcello claimed in an interview with The Sun that his 1995 liver donation came from hockey great Brian Smith, the NHL player and sportscaster who was murdered in an Ottawa parking lot by a gunman suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

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“Alana, who was Brian’s wife at the time, revealed that I was the recipient,” Marcello told the Sun.

“For 25 years the Step By Step journey became my everything, my purpose, my life. I walked 12,000 km across Canada to honour my hero in secret.”

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Back in a 2017 interview with the Sun, Marcello — who had been battling cancer since 2014 — needed a kidney and said he was writing a book to keep his charity alive.

  1. George Marcello, CEO of Step By Step, is seen in this file photo on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017.

    Organ transplant activist claims liver donated by slain sportscaster

  2. George Marcello, CEO Step By Step, with his torch from his previous campaigns ' Torch of Life' is in failing health now that his body is rejecting his transplanted organ. Friday December 1, 2017.

    Organ transplant activist pens book to keep charity alive as he battles cancer

  3. None

    The search for living organ donors

“I can’t go on the road anymore, across Canada and around the world,” he told the Sun.

“It’s hard, because for the past 20 years I have had always had something going on to promote donation.”

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