Mark York, who played Billy Merchant on The Office, has died at 55. Now fans are wondering what happened. According to his obituary, the actor passed away at Miami Valley Hospital on May 19 “following a brief and unexpected illness.” While it is unclear what specifically caused York’s death, his obituary asks that flowers are replaced by memorial donations to Spinal Cord Research Advancement (www.SCICure.org).

York had been paraplegic since being involved in a car crash in 1998, yet his disability never held him back from pursuing his dreams. After earning a triple major degree from Anderson University, York went to California to explore the film industry, where he found television success in The Office and CSI New York.

While starring on The Office, York was an enthusiastic advocator for paralysis awareness and finding a cure. He once said that while playing Billy Merchant, “The line producer, Randy Cordray, approved a ‘set visit’ for our foundation to be able to raffle off as a prize in order to bring in the needed funding to cure paralysis. Steve Carell even suggested that we (he) shoot a PSA right there on the set of The Office.”

On York’s personal website, he describes himself as “As an actor, he’s attempting to open the minds of casting directors, and others in Hollywood, to also see a wheelchair-user in real-life roles such as doctors, lawyers, businessmen, and such, because…well, they are.”

In recent years, Mark York has been more focused on inventing, for which he earned two patents. He has spent time volunteering for the Spinal Cord Research Foundation, The Red Cross, The United Way, and March Of Dimes. According to his obituary, Mark “had such an outgoing, uplifting, positive attitude and personality. He always tried to look at what he could accomplish and do, not what he couldn’t do. He had experienced many travel opportunities and many dreams for the future.”

Fans of the character Billy Merchant wonder what happened to York’s health after his acting career and whether or not it had anything to do with his paralysis. For those looking to celebrate Mark York’s life, his obituary shares the details: “Funeral services will be held Saturday, May 22, 2021, 2pm, at the Kreitzer Funeral Home, 204 N. Main St. Arcanum, OH 45304. A visitation will be held on Saturday at the funeral home from 12pm-2pm leading into the services.”