CANADA

A tearful farewell

DANYLO HAWALESHKA November 17 1997
CANADA

A tearful farewell

DANYLO HAWALESHKA November 17 1997

A tearful farewell

CANADA

Martin Kruze was on top of the world for only a brief time in his short life. And the lows were very low. In 1975, pedophiles at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto entrapped Kruze, then 13, by exploiting the boy’s awe of the hockey shrine. Kruze was given free run of the fabled Gardens—but in exchange was forced to submit to various sexual indignities for seven years. He attempted suicide

for the first time 10 years ago— and kept trying until he succeeded late last month, jumping off a Toronto bridge. But before he died, Kruze mustered the courage to tell police about the sex ring that had preyed on him and dozens of other boys. As Canadians praised him, Kruze’s self-esteem soared, and for a brief

time he felt wanted, his words coveted by reporters. Then the spotlight dimmed, and with it went Kruze’s spirits. “Martin had this huge high and then the attention stopped,” recalls Jayne Dunsmore, his common-law wife. “He did the odd speaking engagement, but not enough—so he started to spiral down.” That spiral eventually ended in Kruze’s death. He was only 35 when he killed himself, having valiantly fought against depression and an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Last week, friends, family and supporters filed by his open casket at St. Andrew’s Latvian Lutheran Church in downtown Toronto. Ken Dryden, the Gardens president, was

Family and friends say goodbye to a hero

among those who paid their respects, and he later ordered that the arena’s flags be lowered to half-mast. That gesture seemed only fitting, given that the flags had been lowered 13 years ago upon the death of George Hannah, the longtime Gardens’ equipment manager—and one of those who, it turned out, had abused Kruze.

Kruze also spoke at the funeral—through a letter he had left behind to his family. “God

loves you,” he wrote. “See you in Heaven”—a poignant sentiment from a man who had lived through his own private hell. In a conversation with Maclean’s, Dunsmore, 45, discussed what it was like to live for 2 A years with a bright, gentle and spiritual man who was tormented by mental illness.

There was no pattern to Kruze’s depression. For a time, he coped well. Beginning in the late 1980s, Kruze spent five years as the manager of a popular bar-restaurant in Toronto’s Yorkville district. But in 1992, he started abusing cocaine, an on-again, off-again addiction he struggled to overcome until the day he died.

During the past year, Kruze tried supporting himself by helping Dunsmore operate her catering business. “It was sporadic but when he was well, when he was ‘on,’ he helped me a lot,” she says. He was not always on. There were days when Kruze’s depression robbed him of his sleep. There was also

his obsessive-compulsive behavior. “Martin was obsessed with sex at one time in his life, obsessed with food, obsessed with drugs,” Dunsmore says. “All of those obsessions and compulsions took the pain away.”

For the past six months, Kruze tried to ease the pain with an antidepressant, Valium and sleeping pills. About 10 days before he died, he checked himself into the Donwood Institute for treatment of his substance abuse. Doctors took him off his pills and prescribed Valium only. A few days later, he called Dunsmore and left an “agitated” message on her answering machine, suggesting they talk soon. “At 10 o’clock the next morning, I hadn’t heard from him so I called the Donwood,” Dunsmore says. “They told me he had been admitted to Toronto East General. He tried to commit suicide by jumping from the Leaside bridge.” The attempt was foiled by a policeman who subdued Kruze and took him to the hospital.

Dunsmore and Kruze’s family pleaded with hospital staff to keep Kruze confined. But after three days, he was released on Oct. 27, with a prescription for yet another antidepressant. On that same day, Gordon Stuckless, a former assistant equipment manager at the Gardens, was given a widely criticized sentence of two years less a day after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting more than two dozen boys, including Kruze. What effect this had on Kruze is unclear, but as his sister-in-law Teresa Kruze conceded after his death, “It didn’t help matters.”

Searching for a means to cope with her suicidal partner, Dunsmore made an appointment to see her family doctor the next day. On the morning of Oct. 28, Dunsmore had to leave home early for work, returning by 10 a.m. to find Kruze with a “red and blotchy” face. Kruze later confessed he had tried to choke himself with a scarf. That night, Kruze was admitted to Toronto Western Hospital for observation. Wednesday morning he was again released. On Thursday, he jumped from the Bloor Street Viaduct. “Do I think the system let him down?,” Dunsmore asks. “Absolutely. Do I think the hospitals did the right thing when they let him go? No. Do I think they’re responsible? In some ways, yes.”

The East General issued a statement saying its doctor had treated Kruze for several years and based his actions on his patient’s history and current condition. Arrangements had also been made to treat him at another institution. Dunsmore, nevertheless, is particularly angered by a hospital doctor who said Kruze was “just using the system.” She readily acknowledges that there had been times when Kruze’s suicide bids were nothing more than pleas for help. Still, Dunsmore said she knew this time was different, and wishes doctors had listened. The only consolation, perhaps, is that Martin Kruze is finally resting in peace.

DANYLO HAWALESHKA