Sunday, March 17, 2013

Have you met Fred?

If you met Fred Riggers, you wouldn’t forget that friendly, gray-haired, smiling little man with a white cane and dark glasses. He is is one of Boise’s memorable characters. On March 13th the Idaho Statesman had an article on their front page titled Fred knows the statehouse. It originally had appeared in the Lewiston Tribune on February 28th, and has also been reprinted by the Idaho Press Tribune. When the legislature is in session, you’ll find Fred hanging out there:

“Lawmakers weren't sure what to make of him. He didn't lobby them and didn't represent any organizations - and he had that white cane - so many just ignored him.

‘I had a terrible time the first year, year and a half,’ Riggers said. ‘When you're disabled, people shun you. But I kept trying.’

One day he was standing at a crosswalk, coming back from lunch, when a senator stopped next to him. The light turned green and he crossed the road. On the other side the senator asked how he knew when it was safe to walk.

‘I used you as my guide dog,’ Riggers replied.

Once he stopped laughing, the senator started talking to Riggers. After that, lawmakers approached him more often, knowing he didn't want anything - except maybe to talk.”

My first encounter with Fred was at a Toastmasters District 15 Conference. He’s been legally blind for a decade but still can see shapes and identify people. Fred was greeting the attendees, and making them feel welcome. I saw him again at a Leadership Institute where he was teaching the class on filling  the club Sergeant at Arms role.

As a child near Nezperce in north central Idaho, Fred learned to deal with having diabetes. He was a farmer and grew wheat and barley. After about six decades his vision began to fail, so he and his wife moved down to Boise. In July 2006 Fred spoke at the Annual Seminar of the Diabetes Action Network. Part of that speech became an article titled Big Attitude, Better Life: How One Blind Farmer Dominated Diabetes.

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