Gene Rodgers, 67, of Austin Texas, passed away peacefully on March 14th after a short illness. Gene was born in Garfield Heights, Ohio, and attended schools in the Berea and Parma school systems. After graduating high school, his plans included homesteading in Alaska.
A hiking accident at the end of his junior year left him with quadriplegia, but his desires to learn and to travel were not dampened. With a little help and a lot of determination, he studied hard during his senior year, and graduated from Valley Forge High School. He attended Cuyahoga Community College, then Kent State University, graduating with a degree in Education. Gene made many wonderful and lifelong friends at KSU.
Knowing that getting about in a climate subject to cold and snow would be impractical, Gene moved to New Mexico, earning an MBA from New Mexico State University. Settling in Austin, he worked various jobs, mainly to fund his worldwide travels, ultimately visiting 44 countries.
Gene researched and took advantage of a growing number of organizations that help people with disabilities take part in sports and adventures made possible through many types of accommodations. He enjoyed road trips, camping, snow skiing, sailing, scuba diving, skydiving, paragliding and bungee jumping. Gene joined a trek to the renowned Mount Everest base camp accompanied by his brother Rob. He produced a jaw dropping music video of his extreme sports activities.
Gene’s warm and engaging personality and his choice to live life to the fullest after a devastating injury had a positive impact on all those who crossed paths with him. He had a keen sense of humor, typified by quick draw come backs and an ever-present sense of fun. While fiercely independent, he knew how to assemble a team. He set his goals super high and achieved them. Yet he also appreciated and was not shy about acknowledging the accomplishments of those close to him.
Gene left the world a better place than he found it. He worked tirelessly with organizations like ADAPT and the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities dedicating his own life to improving the lives of other people with disabilities. He went as far as being chained to a public bus during a demonstration in Washington D.C. advocating for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), demonstrating his courage and advocacy grit. With help from Knowbility, the websites he helped to create met accessibility guidelines. He insisted his book be printed using a font well suited for people with dyslexia and visual impairments.
Gene combined his background as an educator and his creativity, personal charm, and advocacy passion as a television personality and producer. He was one of the first writers and cast members of Art Spark Texas’ Actual Lives theatre troop. For over fifteen years, Gene co-hosted and produced with his good friend Dave Dauber the Gene and Dave Show on local public access television, where they reported on SXSW and disability related topics. Among the recorded treasures, Gene left us with a 20-minute interview on We’re People First, The Jeff Moyer Show, available on YouTube.
Gene is survived by his brothers Bill, Mike, and Ron, and by sisters Mindy and Pam and many cousins. He is predeceased by his parents, Robert and Mary Rodgers, and by brother Rob Rodgers.
No obituary can ever do him justice; for an in-depth look at his amazing and inspiring life, check out his book, Awesome by Accident, on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble. Learn more about where to buy Gene’s book.
Gene’s family is eternally grateful for all the support he received from so many people in his life including his dedicated attendants Etta and Shirley, his affectionately named Bond girls, Joni and Anne, travel companions, adaptive technology wizards, furniture makers, fellow cooks, medical professionals and so many friends around the world.
To make a difference, please consider donating to the organizations that were important to Geno:
- CTD – Coalition of Texans with Disabilities
- ADAPT – American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today
- Art Spark Texas
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