CHEVIOT, Ohio — When a driver in an SUV struck and killed 59-year-old Rickey York earlier this month, York's co-worker, Dori Hall felt like she lost a member of her family.
"Since I was born, he was like an uncle to me," Hall said.
Hall's family owns Santorini Family Restaurant on Harrison Avenue in Cheviot. York worked there for more than 30 years, up to the day of the crash that took his life on Elberon Avenue in East Price Hill.
"He was late for work, which is not like him," Hall recalled of the May 9 afternoon when police said the driver veered and struck York before striking a telephone pole. "He was very punctual, and we started wondering, 'Maybe he fell asleep on the bus, because he's done that before.'
"Then a couple hours went by. We kept calling him, and he wasn't answering."
The family planned to reopen May 26, after weeks of being closed to dine-in customers during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, they're raising money to hold a memorial service for the co-worker they considered family.
"He's been a part of our family... We worked together every shift. We'd always look forward to seeing each other, the next cheesy joke or pun that we could come up with."
The restaurant posted on Facebook that a Gofundme has been established for anyone who wants to help with the expenses. The Gofundme page says, “After 30+ years of loyal service, his work family will be memorializing him as his next of kin could not be located.”
On the GoFundMe page, Santorini staff recalled he was an avid Metro bus rider.
"On his off day, he would ride the bus around town... Rickey probably knew every bus route (and maybe every bus driver in town)," the fundraiser pages reads.
The nearby vicinity of Elberon Avenue, from Eighth Street down the hill toward Mount Echo Park Drive has seen roughly 20 crashes in the last six months, according to Cincinnati police data available on CincyInsights. At least eight have involved injury -- including York, the one fatality in that time period. In 2019, the stretch saw more than 50 automobile crashes.
The city of Cincinnati -- in step with the rest of the country -- has seen a recent rise in the number of crashes injuring or killing people walking or biking through their neighborhoods. That trend hit a fever pitch in late 2018, when a string of crashes involving Cincinnati Public Schools students walking to or from campus galvanized public discussion of what some described as a threat to public health.
The downward trend is little comfort to Hall.
"Absolutely devastating, just crushing... I'm still finding it hard to believe. It hasn't sunk in yet."
The Santorini staff planned a funeral service for York on Friday, May 22 at Bridgetown Cemetery. Only a limited number of people can attend, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
WCPO has not named the driver involved in the crash because it was not clear whether they would face charges at the time of this report. The police report indicated that York was standing just off the curb in the next traffic lane over at the time of the collision.