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Aryeh Lebeau & Myles Helfand, The Body: Remembering Robert Frascino, M.D.

Remembering Robert Frascino, M.D.
from The Body, September 20, 2011
Aryeh Lebeau, general manager & Myles Helfand, editorial director

photo: (from Frascino’s self-written bio at Oberlin college) “I’m the short guy on the left. Steven Natterstad, M.D. is on the right. He’s my life partner of the past 16 years and more recently my legally married spouse. We got hitched on Halloween in a hastily arranged mass ceremony just in time to beat the evil California Proposition 8. The officiant who performed our service was dressed like Mr. Spock in a Star Trek costume. We plan to ‘live long and prosper.’ So far, so good. Our personal motto remains: ‘Every day above ground is a good day.’ We know life, love, illness, opportunity and other unscheduled events will continue. We welcome their challenges.”

This page will contain a collection of thoughts from The Body’s staff on the passing of Dr. Frascino. Please share your personal thoughts via the comments section.

Robert James Frascino, M.D., our long-time friend and expert, passed away on Saturday from bacterial sepsis. He was 59 years old. Known as “Dr. Bob” to so many, he was easily one of the most incredible and inspiring people I have ever had the privilege of knowing.

Bob was a brilliant immunologist who was working in HIV well before he became HIV positive in 1991. In the mid-90s, he and his husband, Steve Natterstad, M.D. formed a charity called The Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation which has raised more than $1,500,000 for various HIV/AIDS causes. Each year, Bob and Steve, both pianists, perform at their benefit called A Concerted Effort. Tragically, the event was to be held this past Sunday, the day after Bob’s passing.

Bob started working with TheBody.com in May 2000 as a host in our Q&A forums. Since then, he has touched millions of people through his Q&A forums on HIV prevention and HIV-related fatigue and anemia, as well as his blog.

He answered nearly 30,000 questions over that time period — truly astounding. Any other person would have burnt out years ago, but Bob was going just as strong last week as the day he started. No matter how inane or serious the question, Bob always found a way to bring humor to every response. He never sugar-coated anything, never shied away from his political inclinations and never met a pun he didn’t like. His singular wit made his forums a must read for HIV-positive and HIV-negative people alike.

I know that his work on our site meant as much to him as it did to the multitudes he helped. I can truly say that our lives (and our site) will never be the same without his limitless generosity, ebullient spirit and undying passion. As we mourn Bob’s passing, we celebrate all that he accomplished in his remarkable life. Our thoughts are with Steve and their families. I would encourage you all to donate toBob and Steve’s foundation in his memory.

— Aryeh Lebeau, general manager of TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com


When you’re a part of the HIV/AIDS community, you tend to accept — a little more readily than others might — that death will come to us all eventually. That doesn’t make it suck any less when it comes. Many of us, whether we’re living with HIV or not, end up living far longer than we could have hoped. Bob was taken away from us far sooner than I could have remotely imagined.

There are people you meet, in the course of your work and your life, who become fixtures in your mind, in your soul. They are your rocks, the people you know will always be there, the people who represent ideals you wish you could achieve. In life — and now, as I have to accept, in death — Bob is my ever-smiling vision of patient, unrelenting optimism in the face of an ocean of doubt. His capacity for giving was stunning. It was endless. What you can see of him on our site — in his forums, as well as his blog — barely scratches the surface.

That said, though, when I look at Bob’s last post in his “Safe Sex” forum, which he wrote three days before he died, I feel it’s so perfectly emblematic of what I loved about him: His humor, his patience, his unwavering positivity, and the sheer depth of his care and compassion for people in need of help and advice. When you were around Bob, you just couldn’t help but feel happier; imagine how you feel reading any of the thousands of missives he wrote on our site, and then amplify it a hundredfold.

I had already cherished my memories of the time I’ve been able to spend with Bob and Steve, and regretted how infrequent those opportunities were. Bob’s passing does nothing to alter that. It just makes me unspeakably sad that I won’t be able to add new memories of him to the shoebox I hold close and warm next to my heart.

— Myles Helfand, editorial director of TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com

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