Ambassador Bridge adversary Stephen Chaborek dies at 95

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Sandwich business owners say Liberals 'betrayed neighbourhood' by allowing new bridge

Sandwich business owners say Liberals 'betrayed neighbourhood' by allowing new bridge

A lawsuit against the Canadian Transit Company will continue in honour of Stephen Chaborek, a World War II navy veteran who launched the legal action alleging the bridge company turned his neighbourhood into a "slum."

Chaborek died on March 11 at age 95. His lawsuit and legacy are ongoing. 

"The action will proceed in his memory," said Harvey Strosberg, a senior partner with Sutts Strosberg LLP, the firm representing Chaborek and the other members of the class action suit. "It's a David and Goliath-like battle, Steve against the CTC and hopefully he'll win even in death."

Never one to back down from a fight, Chaborek launched the $16.5-million lawsuit after watching more than 100 houses around his home on Indian Road be boarded up and abandoned.

A resident of the area for more than 50 years, he said he was tired of watching his area fall apart while the bridge company did nothing.

"They (CTC) had to respond and blame somebody so the city is number one and it could be vice versa where the city will now blame the bridge. So it's the people here who have to suffer for it," Chaborek told CBC in 2013 shortly after taking legal action.

On March 6, despite sickness that kept him bedridden, the former auto worker testified in a Windsor court via video tape and challenged the CTC about the impact it had on the home he loved.

"Steve was a hero to this community and to me," said Strosberg, who thinks of his client all the time. "He loved his property, he loved his neighbourhood, he loved his neighbours and he loved Sandwich."

Not your normal grandfather

Sama Selman grew up in the house next to Chaborek's meticulously cared for home. The 16-year-old said he's watched the impact the bridge company has had on the neighbourhood from his front porch.

"It's been slow and painful," he said. "Most residents opted to move out or give up … but Steve Chaborek  … has been fighting for this neighbourhood as long as we've been here."

Selman said the much older man used to tell him stories about his time in the navy and became a grandfather-like figure to him. But, while most grandfathers are content to sit in a rocking chair, Chaborek had the "courage" to lead a legal battle.

"Most people … let the bridge take their homes, but he signified progress and the possibility that we could fight this," said Selman.

Chaborek's daughter took the stand March 7 and cried as she told the court her grandson called the bridge a "bully" and asked why his grandfather had to live that way.

"My dad was in the war and I've told him it's like he lives in a war zone now," she said. "It's a disgrace how it happened."

Lawsuit continues

The lawsuit continues Tuesday, but will not take place Wednesday in honour of the veteran's funeral. Court is scheduled to last two more weeks.

Strosberg described Chaborek as a "wonderful family man." He is survived by his three children, seven grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren and one great, great grandchild.

"May he be granted the peace he has earned and the grace he deserves," read his obituary.