By Bonnie O’Leary, NVRC Director of Community Outreach Programs, 1/23/2013
Mike DeFries, NVRC’s dear friend and supporter, passed away on Monday, January 14th after a long illness. We first met Mike in 2006 when he attended my “Coping with Hearing Loss” series at a community near his home. As a senior who was experiencing hearing loss, he was intrigued with the content of the sessions, and came to NVRC to meet the staff and learn about the scope of our services.
Mike wanted to create a project in memory of his mother, Grace Abelson DeFries, who developed late-onset hearing loss in her 70s. A life that was once vibrant with activities became one of solitude and isolation until Grace’s death at the age of 95.
After meeting with other members of the staff and learning more about NVRC, Mike wrote “this was the place to carry out a project….in memory of my mother. As the project began to solidify, we formulated its goals, namely to provide a guide to assist older people encountering increasing difficulties with hearing loss by relating experiences of others, and how they coped with their personal problems. As a secondary objective, we would present information about technology for enhancing hearing and for other techniques enhancing lifestyle in a readable, non-pedantic, non-threatening style – all sprinkled generously with humor.”
Mike’s concept, and his substantial funding for the project, became the launch pad for NVRC’s “I Can’t Hear You!” (ICHY) series and the free booklet that accompanies the program. For almost three years, he guided the editorial process of the booklet from start to finish, chapter and verse. “This page is too serious, put in a cartoon!”
As the booklet took shape, Mike generously provided us with editorial luncheon feasts at his home on Lake Barcroft. Having learned that my late mother was Russian, he often made “Mike’s Special Borscht” for us to sip by the water’s edge; I confess to consuming the lion’s share. Two of his daughters, Diane and Vicki, often joined us for edit sessions and offered more excellent ideas as well as enthusiasm and encouragement.