During the last town council meeting on August 4, 2020, Gerry DiFranza was awarded a citation for his outstanding commitment to the Winthrop Commission on Disabilities, where he has served for 16 years, with advocacy work that goes back 50 years. Since Gerry has been on the board of the committee, various disabilities have been represented by different members of the committee. Always accompanied by his white cane, Gerry quickly became a well-known messenger in the community, continuously pushing important topics that ultimately bettered the lives of Winthrop residents with disabilities.
Gerry has become infamous for his white cane and he has been recognized for his work writing bills for different laws passed through state legislation for the Massachusetts’ White Cane Law, which states that all motorists and cyclists must come to a complete stop when they see a pedestrian using a dog guide or a white cane at a street crossing.
In addition to his advocacy in Winthrop, Gerry has been on the board of the American Foundation for the Blind and the Bay State Council for the Blind.
Having been born with a sight problem, Gerry was a much adored offspring to his parents and the equally beloved sibling to his twin sister, Geraldine. As time progressed, Gerry’s vision difficulties began to manifest themselves in more dramatic fashion. It was within his family circle that Gerry received some very important lessons about life, attending the local public schools. He worked his way through high school assisting the cafeteria workers in the preparation of student meals, and in doing so became well-versed in the importance of nutritious meals for students. Gerry, who is now 80 years old, studied nutrition at Bunker Hill Community College and worked in that field for many years, until his passion for improving the lives of the blind and visually impaired beckoned him to become a fixture at the State House, where he continues to leave his mark.
“It’s really his calling to be doing something for those who are visually impaired,” said Susan Rowe, friend and fellow advocate. “He has dedicated his life to making life better for those who are impaired and we are grateful for him.”