Daniel Lee bought his first VCR in 1978, not long after the earliest videocassette recorders came off the assembly line. Time magazine, in 1984, noted his collection of 600 tapes -- an astonishing number in those days if you were not the Eastman film archive.

That grew to upward of 5,000 by his death, filling an entire former bedroom in his basement. His collection ran from Orson Welles's 1941 masterpiece "Citizen Kane" to the 1996 comedy "Citizen Ruth," from the Clint Eastwood Western "A Fistful of Dollars" to "A Fistful of Datas," an episode from the television series "Star Trek: the Next Generation."

But more than mere purchasing, he kept a list of the titles, the actors, the producers, the directors, the film editors. His method of doing so was slow, methodical. He'd freeze the credit frames and use the eraser end of a pencil to tap out the words he wanted.

The man behind this movie madness, Daniel Edward Lee Jr., lost most of his body movement after a car accident in 1958 left him paralyzed below the neck.

Given only days to live, he instead stayed around 44 years -- getting married, raising a stepdaughter and other relatives, visiting the Playboy Club in Jamaica and enjoying his share of crab imperial. But mostly he liked movies, and his VCR in particular.

"I haven't been out to the theaters in years," he told Time. "The VCR has given me more independence."

The Washington native and resident died Nov. 21, suffering from congestive heart failure, kidney disease, cancer and diabetes.

Movies were a mental escape for a man who often, in dreams, saw himself walking.

"He had all day," Lucinda Richardson, his sister-in-law, said of his movie list. "That kept him going for a long time."

But in so many ways, this is more than the story of Daniel Lee.

It is also the story of his wife, Mary, his teenage sweetheart. Every day, she brushed his teeth, shaved him and dressed him -- though, truth be told, he much preferred lounging bare in bed to donning clothes. She helped him practice walking. On her watch, he never had a bedsore.

It is also the story of his stepdaughter, Charity Bennett, who took Lee for walks and helped him in countless daily regimens. But also, given Lee's passion for cinema, Bennett said, "I was the remote control for a long time."

It is also the story of his nephew, Alvin Gray, who grew up in Lee's home because of family problems. Lee taught Gray how to cook a casserole of beans, hot dogs, green peppers, onions and molasses.

Gray remembers a mischievous side, such as how Lee liked to listen through the air vents to conversations on other floors of the house. Lee would offer advice to Gray and his teenage friends that would be eerily on target about the problem at hand. Asked how he knew about the topic, he would say only that he had been taking a "walking pill."

Lee grew up without such guidance, and as a result, he was a boisterous youth who enjoyed boxing and sometimes got into fights. He was called "Reds" in those days for his reddish hair, which disappeared with age.

With his father absent, his mother reared him. He joined the Army at 16, became an expert marksman, served on a tank and fought in the Korean War.

"He loved the military, the idea he could be a hero," Richardson said. "That's probably why he lasted so long. He liked to do things and didn't let anything stop him."

On leave once, he took out his 15-year-old neighbor, Mary Bowser. They went to see a football game at the old Griffith Stadium and rode the streetcar.

"We had a nice long date," she said. Then he went away and broke her heart when she heard he had become involved with a woman in Tennessee with whom he had three children. He visited the children over the years.

In the Army, he got his high school diploma and studied nursing at Texas A&I University. The car accident occurred at 3 p.m. Dec. 15, 1958, on a highway about four miles west of Leesville, La.

He was asleep at the time. Another man was at the wheel. The car rolled off the road and down a hill. He never talked about it.

Meanwhile, Mary married, had Charity and divorced. They met up again when Lee was staying with his mother in Washington. Mary began taking care of him, and he proposed marriage several times.

"I had to make sure I could do it," Mary said. "There was a lot of prayer. I made the promise I could take care of him and be there for him. My daughter had a father, and he was happy I was there."

They married in 1966.

"We had a good life," she added. "We had a lovely life. Don't think we argued but once, and that was because I was half-asleep and said something."

His sister-in-law said there was one thing that made him mad: if someone said one of his films was boring.

Daniel Lee, a military veteran who was paralyzed in a car accident in 1958, did not let his disability prevent him from living a full life.