A Giant Among Giants
By Chanel Gleicher
A little more than a year ago, the world lost a devoted advocate of the American and international Deaf communities and Deaf sports.
Former United States of America Deaf Sports Federation president Lawrence “Larry” Fleischer passed away unexpectedly on Nov. 1, 2009, of a heart attack while on his way home from the American Sign Language Teachers Association conference in Phoenix, Ariz. He had just given what would be his last keynote speech.
His passing left a void in the community, and many struggled to comprehend the loss of one of deaf sports’ staunchest advocates.
“He strongly believed in the value of sports and saw sports as playing a significant role in the empowerment of the Deaf community,” said Flavia Fleischer and Will Garrow, Fleischer’s daughter and son-in-law. “His entire life was devoted to the Deaf community, and we are fortunate to have his shoulders to stand on today.”
Flesicher, of Kings Park, N.Y., was born October 11, 1945 to Samuel and Rita Flesicher. After graduating from the New York School for the Deaf in 1963, Fleischer enrolled at Gallaudet College — now Gallaudet University.
He was an avid sports fan and worked for Gallaudet’s athletic department as scorekeeper for its soccer, baseball, football and basketball teams. He also had an outstanding baseball career, playing four different positions for the Bison: catcher, second and third baseman, and pitcher. He also earned varsity letters in football and soccer. In 1965, he was named the college’s most improved football player and was also a member of Block “G” Club, a club for all sports lettermen.
Fleischer, a mathematics major, was also very involved with the community and continued his involvement in athletics through several coaching jobs at Gallaudet. In 1973, he took a job at California State University at Northridge. There, he became the chair of the Deaf Studies department and played a large role in developing programs in Deaf studies, ASL and Deaf sports.
Off the clock, Flesicher continued to serve on athletic boards in California, but was also involved in the broader deaf community. He spent his adult life dedicating his knowledge and leadership skills to creating a better community for Deaf individuals and athletes.
He served first as secretary-treasurer and then president of FarWest Athletic Association of the Deaf (FAAD). From 1985 through 1989, he was the chairperson of the Restructuring Committee of the American Athletic Association of the Deaf (AAAD, now known as USADSF). Fleischer was also honored with AAAD’s Man of the Year award and was an inductee of USA Deaf Basketball (USADB).
He served as AAAD/USADSF president from 1989 to 1997 and was elected again in 2005. He strengthened the Pan American Deaf Sports Organization (PANAMDES) and served a term as president from 1998 to 2003.
During his presidency, Fleischer invested a great deal of time in expanding AAAD into a multiple sports organization, to be called USADSF. At the time, AAAD focused mostly on basketball and softball athletes, but Fleischer believed in creating opportunities for athletes in all sports. The change from AAAD to USADSF created more opportunities for Deaf athletes to participate in international competitions.
When Fleischer was not working with Deaf athletes or USADSF, he continued his involvement with organizations for Deaf people. He was president of the Council on Education of the Deaf and the American Sign Language Teachers Associations, and was a member of the National Certification Board of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.
Fleischer is survived by his wife, Vera (Pedersen) Fleischer; son, Flann Flesicher; and daughter, Flavia Fleischer, son-in-law,