At peace: Louise Russo is philosophical about life, paralysis

News Jun 25, 2017 by Fannie Sunshine North York Mirror

The sight of Louise Russo smiling and laughing is enough to puzzle most people.

Shouldn’t the woman who was struck by a Colt AR-15 bullet in a botched mob hit inside a North York sandwich shop 13 years ago, rendering her a paraplegic, be angry? And not just run-of-the mill angry, but angry enough to want to kill those who put her in a wheelchair?

“There are many days when I’m angry and upset,” she admits. “It is what it is and I have to move on. I need to find inner peace, acceptance, and love. I’ve always felt inner peace right from the beginning.”

***

April 21, 2004 started out ordinary. Russo, then a 45-year-old part-time Bell Canada employee, had spent most of the day in a school meeting for her daughter, Jenna, who was born with Congenital Myasthenia Gravis. Russo was Jenna’s primary caregiver, and was meeting with school officials to discuss some issues in her classroom. Her other daughter, Krista, had just started Air Cadets and Russo drove her later that day to her meeting in Downsview. She then went home to prepare dinner before picking Krista up. Her daughter was hungry, so Russo drove to nearby California Sandwiches at Chesswood Drive and Sheppard Avenue to get her something to eat.

While standing in front of the counter while Krista waited in the car, a bullet intended for mobster Michele Modica hit Russo’s spine, causing broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and paralysis from the waist down.

“I had a lot of internal bleeding,” Russo recalled. “I was lying there with wires, with a collar around my neck. My son, Steven, was 19 at the time and as he drove to the hospital he heard on the radio I was paralyzed. He held my hand, and said ‘I know you lost your legs, but I still have my mom.’”

Her naturally soft voice grows quieter, her warm brown eyes turned downward.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I went through.”

***

A bullet might have stolen Russo’s legs, but it didn’t rob her of her spirit.

A strong handshake greeted a reporter at the door of her immaculate two-storey Weston and Albion roads house, not far from the 3.4 hectare park named in her honour in 2006 for the work Russo has done with Working Against Violence Everyday (W.A.V.E.), a non-profit she founded that gives bursaries to young people who exemplify respect, responsibility and leadership.

“Can I get you some tea?” she asks, wheeling over to the cupboard and using a reacher to grab two mugs. A water cooler beside the counter runs hot and cold, eliminating the need for a kettle.

Russo had baked a chocolate pistachio cake the previous day, and offered a piece to a reporter, who readily accepted.

“Or I can make you a sandwich,” she offered.

And that’s quintessential Russo, always thinking of others.

She does things on her own as best she can, but everything must be planned in advance.

“I have to wait for someone to help me get out of bed,” she said. “I used to cry. But then I realized I should be thankful I have an attendant. The good thing is, I’ve gotten stronger mentally. I love the person I’ve become.”

And who is that person?

“I’m stronger, more confident, more outspoken,” she said. “I’m involved more with community. I’m giving hope to young people who are struggling.”

The year after she was shot, Russo woke one night at 4 a.m. with a vision for a fundraiser, and the words Walk Against Violence popped into her head.

“I can’t walk, and I’m calling it Walk Against Violence?” she remembered thinking.

In August 2005, more than 1,000 participants laced up for Walk Against Violence.

Along with her work with W.A.V.E., Russo can be found advocating for the city’s lack of full-service gas stations, and fighting against misuse of handicapped parking permits and spots.

***

The young man sits across from Russo, fidgeting in his chair. He hesitates to speak what’s on his mind.

Russo urges him to talk in her gentle manner. He leans over the table, pounding it with his fist. He is an inmate at a youth detention centre, and Russo is there to share her story.

He wants to know why she’s not angry, and also why she doesn’t want to kill the men who did this to her.

“What does that do for you?” she asks of remaining upset. “Sometimes you have to look at life as a journey and make the best of it.”

Whether she’s speaking at a detention centre or school, Russo finds pleasure in sharing her story with young people in the hopes they won’t turn to a life of crime.

“I always wanted to be a teacher and never got that chance,” she said. “Maybe I’m teaching in a different way.”


Start your day by exploring an unsolved mystery, meeting interesting people in our communities and reading new nonfiction or fiction by Canadian authors. Join us every Sunday for your Sunday Reads.

At peace: Louise Russo is philosophical about life, paralysis

Mother of three was shot in a botched mob hit in 2004

News Jun 25, 2017 by Fannie Sunshine North York Mirror

The sight of Louise Russo smiling and laughing is enough to puzzle most people.

Shouldn’t the woman who was struck by a Colt AR-15 bullet in a botched mob hit inside a North York sandwich shop 13 years ago, rendering her a paraplegic, be angry? And not just run-of-the mill angry, but angry enough to want to kill those who put her in a wheelchair?

“There are many days when I’m angry and upset,” she admits. “It is what it is and I have to move on. I need to find inner peace, acceptance, and love. I’ve always felt inner peace right from the beginning.”

***

April 21, 2004 started out ordinary. Russo, then a 45-year-old part-time Bell Canada employee, had spent most of the day in a school meeting for her daughter, Jenna, who was born with Congenital Myasthenia Gravis. Russo was Jenna’s primary caregiver, and was meeting with school officials to discuss some issues in her classroom. Her other daughter, Krista, had just started Air Cadets and Russo drove her later that day to her meeting in Downsview. She then went home to prepare dinner before picking Krista up. Her daughter was hungry, so Russo drove to nearby California Sandwiches at Chesswood Drive and Sheppard Avenue to get her something to eat.

While standing in front of the counter while Krista waited in the car, a bullet intended for mobster Michele Modica hit Russo’s spine, causing broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and paralysis from the waist down.

“I had a lot of internal bleeding,” Russo recalled. “I was lying there with wires, with a collar around my neck. My son, Steven, was 19 at the time and as he drove to the hospital he heard on the radio I was paralyzed. He held my hand, and said ‘I know you lost your legs, but I still have my mom.’”

Her naturally soft voice grows quieter, her warm brown eyes turned downward.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I went through.”

***

A bullet might have stolen Russo’s legs, but it didn’t rob her of her spirit.

A strong handshake greeted a reporter at the door of her immaculate two-storey Weston and Albion roads house, not far from the 3.4 hectare park named in her honour in 2006 for the work Russo has done with Working Against Violence Everyday (W.A.V.E.), a non-profit she founded that gives bursaries to young people who exemplify respect, responsibility and leadership.

“Can I get you some tea?” she asks, wheeling over to the cupboard and using a reacher to grab two mugs. A water cooler beside the counter runs hot and cold, eliminating the need for a kettle.

Russo had baked a chocolate pistachio cake the previous day, and offered a piece to a reporter, who readily accepted.

“Or I can make you a sandwich,” she offered.

And that’s quintessential Russo, always thinking of others.

She does things on her own as best she can, but everything must be planned in advance.

“I have to wait for someone to help me get out of bed,” she said. “I used to cry. But then I realized I should be thankful I have an attendant. The good thing is, I’ve gotten stronger mentally. I love the person I’ve become.”

And who is that person?

“I’m stronger, more confident, more outspoken,” she said. “I’m involved more with community. I’m giving hope to young people who are struggling.”

The year after she was shot, Russo woke one night at 4 a.m. with a vision for a fundraiser, and the words Walk Against Violence popped into her head.

“I can’t walk, and I’m calling it Walk Against Violence?” she remembered thinking.

In August 2005, more than 1,000 participants laced up for Walk Against Violence.

Along with her work with W.A.V.E., Russo can be found advocating for the city’s lack of full-service gas stations, and fighting against misuse of handicapped parking permits and spots.

***

The young man sits across from Russo, fidgeting in his chair. He hesitates to speak what’s on his mind.

Russo urges him to talk in her gentle manner. He leans over the table, pounding it with his fist. He is an inmate at a youth detention centre, and Russo is there to share her story.

He wants to know why she’s not angry, and also why she doesn’t want to kill the men who did this to her.

“What does that do for you?” she asks of remaining upset. “Sometimes you have to look at life as a journey and make the best of it.”

Whether she’s speaking at a detention centre or school, Russo finds pleasure in sharing her story with young people in the hopes they won’t turn to a life of crime.

“I always wanted to be a teacher and never got that chance,” she said. “Maybe I’m teaching in a different way.”


Start your day by exploring an unsolved mystery, meeting interesting people in our communities and reading new nonfiction or fiction by Canadian authors. Join us every Sunday for your Sunday Reads.

At peace: Louise Russo is philosophical about life, paralysis

Mother of three was shot in a botched mob hit in 2004

News Jun 25, 2017 by Fannie Sunshine North York Mirror

The sight of Louise Russo smiling and laughing is enough to puzzle most people.

Shouldn’t the woman who was struck by a Colt AR-15 bullet in a botched mob hit inside a North York sandwich shop 13 years ago, rendering her a paraplegic, be angry? And not just run-of-the mill angry, but angry enough to want to kill those who put her in a wheelchair?

“There are many days when I’m angry and upset,” she admits. “It is what it is and I have to move on. I need to find inner peace, acceptance, and love. I’ve always felt inner peace right from the beginning.”

***

April 21, 2004 started out ordinary. Russo, then a 45-year-old part-time Bell Canada employee, had spent most of the day in a school meeting for her daughter, Jenna, who was born with Congenital Myasthenia Gravis. Russo was Jenna’s primary caregiver, and was meeting with school officials to discuss some issues in her classroom. Her other daughter, Krista, had just started Air Cadets and Russo drove her later that day to her meeting in Downsview. She then went home to prepare dinner before picking Krista up. Her daughter was hungry, so Russo drove to nearby California Sandwiches at Chesswood Drive and Sheppard Avenue to get her something to eat.

While standing in front of the counter while Krista waited in the car, a bullet intended for mobster Michele Modica hit Russo’s spine, causing broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and paralysis from the waist down.

“I had a lot of internal bleeding,” Russo recalled. “I was lying there with wires, with a collar around my neck. My son, Steven, was 19 at the time and as he drove to the hospital he heard on the radio I was paralyzed. He held my hand, and said ‘I know you lost your legs, but I still have my mom.’”

Her naturally soft voice grows quieter, her warm brown eyes turned downward.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I went through.”

***

A bullet might have stolen Russo’s legs, but it didn’t rob her of her spirit.

A strong handshake greeted a reporter at the door of her immaculate two-storey Weston and Albion roads house, not far from the 3.4 hectare park named in her honour in 2006 for the work Russo has done with Working Against Violence Everyday (W.A.V.E.), a non-profit she founded that gives bursaries to young people who exemplify respect, responsibility and leadership.

“Can I get you some tea?” she asks, wheeling over to the cupboard and using a reacher to grab two mugs. A water cooler beside the counter runs hot and cold, eliminating the need for a kettle.

Russo had baked a chocolate pistachio cake the previous day, and offered a piece to a reporter, who readily accepted.

“Or I can make you a sandwich,” she offered.

And that’s quintessential Russo, always thinking of others.

She does things on her own as best she can, but everything must be planned in advance.

“I have to wait for someone to help me get out of bed,” she said. “I used to cry. But then I realized I should be thankful I have an attendant. The good thing is, I’ve gotten stronger mentally. I love the person I’ve become.”

And who is that person?

“I’m stronger, more confident, more outspoken,” she said. “I’m involved more with community. I’m giving hope to young people who are struggling.”

The year after she was shot, Russo woke one night at 4 a.m. with a vision for a fundraiser, and the words Walk Against Violence popped into her head.

“I can’t walk, and I’m calling it Walk Against Violence?” she remembered thinking.

In August 2005, more than 1,000 participants laced up for Walk Against Violence.

Along with her work with W.A.V.E., Russo can be found advocating for the city’s lack of full-service gas stations, and fighting against misuse of handicapped parking permits and spots.

***

The young man sits across from Russo, fidgeting in his chair. He hesitates to speak what’s on his mind.

Russo urges him to talk in her gentle manner. He leans over the table, pounding it with his fist. He is an inmate at a youth detention centre, and Russo is there to share her story.

He wants to know why she’s not angry, and also why she doesn’t want to kill the men who did this to her.

“What does that do for you?” she asks of remaining upset. “Sometimes you have to look at life as a journey and make the best of it.”

Whether she’s speaking at a detention centre or school, Russo finds pleasure in sharing her story with young people in the hopes they won’t turn to a life of crime.

“I always wanted to be a teacher and never got that chance,” she said. “Maybe I’m teaching in a different way.”


Start your day by exploring an unsolved mystery, meeting interesting people in our communities and reading new nonfiction or fiction by Canadian authors. Join us every Sunday for your Sunday Reads.