Dana Gibson dies at 96: Play Girl and Kazoo Impresario



On Wednesday March 3, Dana Gibson died of a lung an infection on the age of 96. She was finest recognized in Santa Cruz because the founding actions director of Cabrillo Faculty Stroke Heart, however in her self-deriving type she known as herself the Play Girl, making life enjoyable for her college students even with a incapacity. The concepts she used had been drawn from a lifetime of expertise.

Her mom was Hope S. Potter, who throughout an April Idiot’s Day blizzard in 1924 was heading to a hilltop hospital to present start. The driving ability of Hope’s sister-in-law, Mona Belle, made them the final to make it to the hospital earlier than the street closed. In order that they named the newborn “Mona Belle” in her honor (though later generally known as Dana). She was slightly child, in order that they nicknamed her “Teensy Babe”, and a few known as her “Teense” for the remainder of her life.

Teense misplaced a part of her listening to to scarlet fever when she was a toddler. Throughout troublesome instances, the household lived with family members in Watertown, Massachusetts. Then in 1929, his father Poppy bought a job with Louis Blaustein at AMOCO Oil in Baltimore, they usually purchased a home within the suburb of Owings Mills.

Their subsequent door neighbors had been the mother and father of stage and comedic movie actress Mildred Natwick. Hopie labored for the Maryland Division of Schooling, specializing in problematic boys from poor neighborhoods, establishing grownup education schemes for his or her mother and father, and in the end founding Highwood Various Faculty for Boys.

When Teense was 10 years previous in 1934, her Down syndrome brother, Louie Jr., was born. Teense grew to become his major caretaker and, together with Hopie, helped Louie create routines and even learn. Teense’s godparents gave her a scholarship to Hannah Moore Academy by way of highschool. Her unique class had solely three college students, however they’ve turn into lifelong associates. This included piano prodigy Maude Corridor (Fleuchère), who entered the Peabody Institute on the age of 11.

Dana Gibson teaches VIVA program college students at a disabled bowling match throughout from the boardwalk. (Contributed)

The Second World Conflict

World Conflict II was notably worrying in Baltimore, a port metropolis with sightings of German submarines. Though episcopal, the Potters had a detailed circle of Jewish associates at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Teense was additionally associates with a boy and lady within the neighborhood, whose father was pro-Hitler regardless of his youngsters’s disapproval. In the future she noticed the kids depart with tears of their eyes as a result of their father was taking them to stay in Nazi Germany.

After graduating in 1942, Teense bought a job at a publishing home as a medical ebook proofreader. She designed ebook jackets and wrote articles for the corporate’s publication, which caught the eye of Bernard Springer, who heads the German language publishing division.

When he grew to become a German translator for the US Military, Springer skilled Teense to design and illustrate unsolicited mail ebook advertising and marketing campaigns, giving him his personal workplace and secretary whereas he was away. She additionally reread authorities secret codes to confirm their accuracy (with out understanding their which means). In the future, she overheard a pleasant couple making an attempt to enter the publishing home with another person’s password, they usually turned out to be Nazi spies. When Mr. Springer returned to his job, Teense seemed for a brand new place.

By Hopie’s Johns Hopkins connections, Teense bought a job with Dr. Helen Taussig, well-known for locating the reason for Blue Child Syndrome and performing the world’s first coronary heart operations. Teense and Sallie Howe had been employed to assist 100 youngsters with rheumatic fever get well from mattress relaxation at residence. The purpose was to boost consciousness in poor black and white neighborhoods that didn’t have entry to convalescent hospitals. Dana helped begin the Keep-In-Mattress Membership, with crafts and actions to maintain youngsters entertained in mattress. On the finish of this system, the kids gathered for a celebration. The Baltimore Solar lined it up and, at Dana’s urging, included a hardly ever allowed picture displaying black and white youngsters collectively.

When the conflict ended, Teense and a buddy determined to tour the US by bus. She modified her title to Dana Potter, to ascertain her personal id. After they bought to San Francisco, Dana first felt at residence, so she offered the opposite half of the spherical journey ticket. Shirley Beneke was a buddy at her boarding home and took her on a visit to Santa Cruz, the place they determined to turn into companions at an Ocean Avenue florist. Dana’s mother and father moved to a home in Westside in 1949 to be close to her. Dana met a good-looking ex-GI named Invoice Gibson, and their mutual love for the books led to a love for one another. They married and lived in Capitola, the place they’d two youngsters, myself in 1955 and my sister Kati in 1957.

Throughout World Conflict II, Invoice had been one of many few survivors of a German POW camp, and his need to assist individuals stemmed from his personal post-traumatic stress dysfunction. With Dana’s encouragement, he grew to become a Methodist minister, and the household lived in small cities throughout northern California, from the coast, to the Central Valley, to the Sierra foothills.

I caught polio in 1964 after I was 9, and needed to be residence schooled by Dana for a 12 months. It was our personal Keep-In-Mattress membership, with artwork, historical past, and a narrative learn aloud by her or dad. Dana was the city librarian, but I had been a nasty reader. Dana’s resolution was a Columbia Theater Radio Performs ebook, dividing the components between us. I had a lot enjoyable studying my components that I began writing performs, which improved my studying and writing expertise. Dana was a Cubs den mom, and later a Brownie advisor for my sister’s recognition group.

I returned to Santa Cruz in 1973 to maintain my grandmother and my uncle with Down’s syndrome whereas going to school. When Invoice retired, he and Dana returned to city in 1974 and lived in Neary Lagoon. Dana returned to school, whereas doing odd jobs as Skeerole on the boardwalk, evening nurse for Alice Earl Wilder, and in 1975 grew to become a recreation therapist at Batterson’s Convalescent Hospital on Matison Lane in Capitola. His essential thesis instructed the story of those that lived at Batterson’s home, whereas his grasp’s thesis gave the therapeutic worth of the Kazoo. She graduated in 1978, with a barefoot William Everson reciting poetry beneath a veil of cleaning soap bubbles. It was the identical 12 months her marriage ended, albeit amicably.

Stroke Heart

Dana Gibson subsequent to the silk scarf she designed in an arts class at The Stroke Heart.

The Cabrillo Faculty Stroke Heart had simply moved to De Laveaga Park in 1976, and Edie Nelson employed Dana because the director of the founding actions of the Stroke Heart quickly after. However Cabrillo shut it down in 1978, fearing state legislation would threaten credit-less courses. Edie labored to show courses into a tutorial program, and with the assistance of Senator Harry Mello and the wheelchair and crutches protesters within the state capital, the Stroke Heart was rescued.

Enrolling as college students as an alternative of sufferers was a lift in shallowness, because it put individuals with disabilities in control of their very own development, which required a willingness to behave. The purpose was to not regain full perform if that was not potential, however to search out different technique of carrying out the specified capabilities. They had been college students in disaster of their lives, typically withdrawn and depressed, and it was Dana’s job to make life value dwelling. She organized a Kazoo group known as the “Humdingers”.

She discovered that individuals who had misplaced their speech or singing voice might nonetheless hum, which helped them take part. Plus, it inspired deep respiration. There have been actions of sitting “Dancercize”, and throwing the bean bag at one another, whereas mentioning the title of the individual you’re throwing at. It pressured individuals to talk even with restricted verbal skill. Board video games require gamers to observe the motion, notice factors, manipulate recreation items, and speak on each flip.

As a former florist, Dana cherished to work in backyard soil. So her “Adaptive Gardening” class had raised beds, the place college students might potted vegetation, carve bonsai timber, and create objects they may promote to boost funds for discipline journeys. They even arrange a gazebo yearly on the county honest. In collaboration with golf professional Gary Loustalot, they created the “Adaptive Golf” class, permitting college students to putter both seated with a brief membership or one-handed with bracelets.

Individuals who feared that their incapacity was an element of isolation, discovered themselves in a program on the forefront of life. Clergy from many of the native church buildings got here to debate their very own religion and reply questions from Dana’s comparative faith class. Native and state politicians got here to debate or clarify political points and applications. Dana’s discipline journeys had been adventures in themselves, giving individuals the reassurance that their limitations didn’t preclude dwelling life to the fullest.

Extra than simply courses, it was life altering and a deep bonding expertise that created lifelong friendships. Lots of those that had accomplished the two-year program returned to work beneath Dana, who was the director of volunteers, and arranged a preferred year-end celebration for the volunteers. In 1985, those that needed a continuation and mainstreaming program joined Dana and the Stroke Membership to create the VIVA (which stands for Important Values) program, by way of Watsonville Grownup Faculty, then branches in Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz. Dana has additionally taught recreation therapist certification programs within the state of California.

Dana Gibson leads her class at Cabrillo Faculty Stroke Heart, in an train known as Laughter Yoga. (Contributed)

In 2000, she raised probably the most cash for the Stroke Heart, profitable a two-week journey to Paris and northern France. On November 21, 1991, and once more on November 17, 2004, he was proclaimed “Dana Gibson Day” by the cities of Santa Cruz and Watsonville, County, and by the State Senate and Legislature. Then in 2007, 83-year-old Dana had macular degeneration in each eyes, and the operation left solely peripheral imaginative and prescient. It additionally destroyed her listening to, as she was unaware of how a lot she relied on lip studying to compensate for partial listening to loss. She reluctantly retired, simply earlier than the Stroke Heart moved to the Cabrillo campus in Aptos. However the VIVA program didn’t survive his retirement.

I took care of her in her later years as she went from a cane to a wheelchair. However in the long run, she was playful, with a infantile curiosity in studying new issues, studying audiobooks, maintaining with the information, and making jokes. She was all the time “Ginger Peachy”, even when she was on the bottom, and her oft-repeated phrase was, “I am comfortable to be alive!”

Ross Eric Gibson is a former historical past columnist for the San Jose Mercury Information and Santa Cruz Sentinel.



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