In Memoriam: Fred L. Gissoni
We are mourning the loss of the incomparable Fred L. Gissoni, who passed away Sunday, September 21, 2014 at the age of 84. Fred contributed 60 years of service to people who are blind and visually impaired. Fred was known across the United States and around the world for his brilliant intellect, inventiveness, and impish sense of humor. Before coming to APH in 1988, he retired from what was then called the Kentucky Department for the Blind.
Fred served for 23 years at APH, retiring in 2011 from our Customer Relations Department, but his legacy will live on for years to come. He helped create several products for people who are blind, including creating a prototype device that would eventually lead to APH's Braille 'n Speak. For his work on this device, Fred, along with Wayne Thompson, was the recipient of APH's "Creative Use of Braille Award" in 1998.
Fred had an encyclopedic knowledge of the blindness field. He would usually be able to answer customer questions immediately. He was very generous with his time, and patient with customers of all skill levels. Fred's world of knowledge eventually became what is now this blog. He is a legend, and he will be greatly missed.
Read a 2009 interview with Fred, which talks more about his career and legacy.
Fred Gissoni touched innumerable lives during his life. Below are just a few comments from those people:
"Having worked with Fred in Customer Relations for over 16 years, I have far too many memories to share here. But suffice it to say, I could write a book of Fredisms. my first memory of him however, goes all the way back to my own middle school days. My parents had purchased our first computer. Someone referred us to Fred, so my father went and picked him up at his home and brought him to our house so that he could work with me hands on with the (then new) software that could make an Apple computer talk. The man was kind and patient and never, ever aged a day. So when I started work at APH as a 22-year-old many years later, his first question to me was, as if I were still in 11 year old, "how is your mommy and Pappy?" he never forgot a single detail about any person or any situation. I think it goes without saying that those of us who knew him and worked with him at APH will never run out of Fredisms to reminisce about. RIP Fred!"
"How can I begin to express how sad I am to hear that my wonderful friend and role model Fred is no longer with us. Fred knew me when I was a teenager who had just entered public school in the 11th grade. I needed his help with the Braille 'n Speak, and that's how our 23 year friendship began. He told me that I would receive a job teaching in a public school setting after I was so discouraged at the response I got from interviewing, "and I don't tell many people that" he said. He gave me a Janice slate for graduation from college, and business cards to use as labeling materials when I got my job. I still have that box full of cards 16 years later. "They hold up real well," he said, and I think of him every time I use them. He made such an impact in my life, and has given me the gift of helping people not feel like they are dumb when it comes to helping with technology or anything else for that matter. I'll never forget what you've done for me Fred. I hope I can impact students and people in the special and generous way you have that all of those you've touched."
"I have talked with Fred for so many years. Always so helpful. He had the most amazing voice. He will be missed."
"What an incredible loss. Fred will always hold a very special place in my heart... no matter the amount of time that passed between our conversations, he always knew my voice ... the California girlfriend ... I will so miss our conversations but I will smile whenever I think of you ... your emails and wonderful sense of humor. Rest in paradise, my friend. It is well-deserved!"
" I first knew about Fred when I got my first Braille'NSpeak. He helped me learn how to make a macro so I could address envelopes with it. He was the kindest, most patient man. When I worked for Center for Independent Living in Berkeley in the 90s, he agreed to speak to us. I don't remember the content of his talk, but his soul shown through in such an articulate manner. He never made me feel like a dope when I had a question. Be at peace, Fred."
" I met Fred several years ago when I was visiting APH, after hearing of him through a firend. His kindness and generosity came to me as I was adjusting to loss of vision. He later sent me a small tool and continued to answer questions and offer support. This genius of a gentleman will be missed and his memory and gifts treasured."
"A genius and a true gentlemen who will be missed."
"I will always remember how he "helped" and chided me at the same time with my old unit, once. I had managed to password protect a document and couldn't remember the password. So he had me repeat "I will not password protect my documents." a few times...then told me that I as kind of stuck. Still made me laugh, even if I was disappointed. But you know what? It worked!I never password protected another document. LOL!"
If you have comments or memories of Fred that you would like to share, please leave a comment.