Deborah Rubens, a popular Columbia waitress for many years before being injured in a 2010 car crash caused by Mayor Steve Benjamin, died Thursday morning. She was 63.
“Deborah passed away after a long, hard-fought courageous battle with lung cancer,” said her attorney, Rick Detwiler.
“She passed away at her home, with her son and the love of her life, her companion Tony Sarvis, at her side,” Detwiler said.
Detwiler said the injuries sustained in the crash had nothing to do with her death.
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Rubens, who worked at the Clarion Hotel as a waitress before the crash, was well regarded by patrons.
Bill Ellen, Clarion manager, said, “The staff at the hotel is very saddened. We have a close knit staff that works together. She worked with them for 11 years, and the staff is very sad. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends.”
Hours after being elected mayor in April 2010, Benjamin was driving east on Gervais Street in his Mercedes SUV when it collided with Rubens’ Toyota Tercel just before dawn.
He was on his way to an early-morning television interview. She was reporting to work at the Clarion and was less than a block away when the crash happened.
Benjamin was found at fault in the incident and paid an $87 ticket.
Rubens suffered “life-threatening injuries, including brain injury,” according to legal papers filed on her behalf after the incident. In the weeks after the incident, she was on a ventilator and life-support before regaining consciousness and eventually leaving the hospital. She also suffered a broken pelvis and broken collarbone in the crash.
In October 2010, Benjamin reached a confidential financial settlement with Rubens, who never resumed work as a waitress.
Since the accident, Benjamin visited Rubens on a number of occasions, said Benjamin’s aide, Michael Wukela.
Benjamin released this statement: “Deborah Rubens was a good lady and a great friend.
“I had the wonderful pleasure of spending her last birthday with Deborah, her family and friends and to witness firsthand the unconditional love, strength of faith and the importance of community in her life.
“When her family called last week to inform me that she’d taken a turn for the worse, our family went into immediate prayer and we remain there.”
Jeff Wilkinson contributed to this story.