Dionisio “Dio” Encarnacion is back behind the bar at Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine after being struck by a car in September.
A friendly, familiar face is back behind the bar at Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine in Hamlin.
Five months after a hit-and-run accident left him temporarily bound to a wheelchair, Horizon West resident and local bartender Dionisio “Dio” Encarnacion has returned to work with the help of his community.
The bartender’s life was turned upside down when a car struck him while he was walking home from Bosphorous the night of Sunday, Sept. 8.
Encarnacion said he doesn’t remember what happened at the time of being hit — the driver fled the scene. He awoke with an injured ligament in his right knee, a fractures pelvis, a hip fracture and seven fractured ribs.
After months of physical therapy, exercise and the love and support of his customers at Bosphorous, Encarnacion has recovered enough where he can work 25 hours a week.
“I feel amazing — I feel so grateful, because people have been taking care of me since Day 1 of the accident,” Encarnacion said. “Honestly, I didn’t expect I would walk again. … For me, it’s like a dream come true.”
Prior to the accident, Encarnacion had made a name for himself as an effervescent bartender and a kind spirit behind the bar of the Hamlin eatery.
His warm personality and attention to detail with his customers caught the attention of many local residents, including Linda Sibley, who orchestrated a GoFundMe page to help Encarnacion pay for his medical bills after the accident. The page raised $7,861, in addition to several thousand dollars raised at two fundraiser events at Bosphorous.
Seeing Encarnacion back behind the bar doing what he loves gives Sibley an immense sense of satisfaction, she said.
“For me personally, I just felt pure happiness for him — just to see how far he’d come from the date of the accident to that day,” Sibley said. “To see him standing there just so happy to be surrounded by people who so deeply cared about him … it was that feeling of, ‘He’s back home. He’s back in the fold.’”
It hasn’t been an easy road to recovery, Encarnacion said. He was bound to a wheelchair until late November, when he started using a walker.
“I was learning how to walk again … I was scared when I stood up — both legs were shaking and my hips felt unstable,” Encarnacion said.
After a few weeks of continued physical therapy, he was cleared to walk on his own two feet without a walker.
An exercise routine over the last month continued to put him on the fast track to recovery, he said. Encarnacion started working out at Hotworx in Hamlin with some guidance from owners Matt and Sheila Bater, doing a combination of squats, heavy band exercises, the stationary bike and yoga.
Encarnacion returned to work at the bar for the first time since the accident Tuesday, Feb. 18 — just one day after his 45th birthday.
Customers welcomed him back with two cakes, he said.
“It was the best birthday ever — a nice welcome back that I will never forget,” Encarnacion said.
‘GOD BLESS ALL OF THEM'
The bar is packed at Bosphorous on a lively Saturday night in Hamlin Feb. 22. Encarnacion mingles with customers while mixing cocktails and pouring wine.
Word traveled fast throughout the Hamlin community about Encarnacion’s injuries and journey to recovery. Customers like Michelle Barfield are thrilled to see Encarnacion back.
“I heard what happened, and I was just devastated to hear that … I was giving best wishes and praying really hard for his recovery, but never in my wildest dreams did I ever believe that he would recover this quickly,” Barfield said. “But considering his positive attitude about life and his energy with everything that he does … it was obvious that he worked really, really hard.”
Encarnacion said he holds no hatred or malice toward the person who struck him in the road back in September. He instead feels a sense of gratitude and thankfulness — thankful to “Jehovah God, Sibley and every person who has wished him well or supported him on his journey to recovery.”
“I feel very blessed, because I think this is the greatest community I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said. “I was born in the Caribbean. I used to live in New York and New England and Orlando, Florida, but Winter Garden — especially the New Independence area — is special. New Independence and the Hamlin area has blown my mind — there’s such good people in this community. God bless all of them.”