Daren Dieter, 29, of East Oak Lane, an artist who was paralyzed in a 2007 shooting, died suddenly Tuesday night, his family said.
Mr. Dieter had been shot four times as he sat in his car after picking up takeout food from a bar on Cheltenham Avenue in West Oak Lane.
The onetime track runner - an adopted son of Philadelphia's consumer advocate, Lance Haver - suffered a spinal cord injury and was paralyzed from the neck down. He could not speak and was told there was no reasonable possibility of his breathing on his own again.
Through intensive therapy, however, he was able to get off his ventilator for hours each day. He taught himself to speak and traveled in a powered wheelchair controlled by puffing and sipping on tube controls. He took up painting with a brush in his mouth.
"Daren lived most days with a tremendous amount of courage and dignity," Haver said.
Mr. Dieter celebrated his 29th birthday last week by organizing his own party, said his mother, Lisa Haver, a retired Philadelphia public school teacher.
Mr. Dieter was preparing to receive treatment at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital to help regain motion in his arms and hands.
The cause of his death was not immediately known, his parents said.
Mr. Dieter and his two brothers were adopted by the Havers because their biological father and mother, Lee and Carol Dieter, suffered from mental illness and could not care for them. Carol Dieter is Lisa Haver's sister.
He graduated from Central High School, and later received a bachelor's degree in visual arts from the State University of New York at New Paltz.
Mr. Dieter and his older brother, Ramsey, had then gotten their own place to live in East Oak Lane. Mr. Dieter had hoped to make a living as an artist.
On Sept. 22, 2007, Mr. Dieter was out on a date when he was shot by Tyree Bohannon, who pleaded guilty a year later to attempted murder and related offenses and was sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison.
Mr. Dieter said he was shot in retaliation for a fight with a friend of Bohannon's about 10 days earlier.
In a statement at Bohannon's sentencing, Mr. Dieter said that justice was not served by the prison term because "in 15 to 20 years, he'll walk away a free man and live the rest of his life. In 15 to 20 years, I'll still be incarcerated in my body."
Mr. Dieter, who lived with his parents, became an advocate for the elimination of illegal handguns and the rights of disabled people, the Havers said.
One of his post-injury paintings is featured on the cover of the current Magee Rehabilitation Hospital calendar.
In addition to his parents, biological parents, and brother, he is survived by another brother, Brandon.
A service for the immediate family will be this week. A memorial service is to be announced.