Alan Douglas Fitzsimons
Alan was born in Salem, Oregon to Hulda R. (Beckley) and Eric L. Fitzsimons. He grew up in Jefferson, Stayton and Cloverdale (OR), Camas, (WA) and graduated from Beaverton High School in 1971. As he began employment as a carpenter's helper, he barely survived a fiery car accident. After 9 months in hospital and dozens of skin graft operations he returned to his parents' home. Without eyesight or fingers, he faced an uncertain future and initially self-medicated with alcohol while maneuvering a new life. He then checked himself into rehabilitation, developed a support network through Alcoholics Anonymous, and was proud of his 35 years of sobriety.
He completed training in independent living from the State Commission for the Blind and moved into a small apartment in Portland. Braille and white-cane mobility were difficult but feeling the companionship and guidance of a trained dog might help, he traveled to Palm Springs for instruction with Guide Dogs of the Desert. Finding the warmer climate of Southern California kinder to his burn scars and after developing new contacts through local AA chapters, he and his first dog Buddy moved into subsidized housing in Indio and then Palm Springs.
Sober and with a steady guide, Alan developed a new life, utilizing two parts of his body that were physically ndamaged: his heart and his brain. New ventures included stand-up comedy; developing skills as a blues harmonicist; writing lyrics and music (recording one CD, "Cell Phonies" as Blind Alan Rude); playing goalball with the "Hell Divers"; and writing and self-publishing several books which he sold at the weekly public market. He refused to be considered "disabled" and did not write about his accident and its aftermath. However, in his first book, The Buddy System, he described the process of developing a partnership with his first guide dog (he was starting with his fifth when he died of inoperable cancer). In addition to his creative endeavors, he was a gifted, humorous, but tough-minded counselor to many AA members who have expressed their sense of loss over Alan's departure. He was a frequent motivational speaker at AA conventions and on two occasions at the Betty Ford Center.
He and his dogs regularly returned to Oregon to visit with his family. He is survived by his mother, Hulda; his sisters Eileen and Katy (Portland), brother Stuart (Salem); nephews Freeman Tong (Portland), Jeffrey (Salem), James Graves (California); nieces Vanessa (Twin Falls), Eva (Milwaukie) and McCaina (Arizona), their spouses and many cousins.
All are welcome at his memorial service on Saturday, November 16, 2pm at the First United Methodist Church, 12555 S.W. 4th, Beaverton.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Guide Dogs of the Desert, PO Box 1692, Palm Springs, CA 92263.