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DeafDigest – 18 January 2022

Barry Strassler, editor, publisher, and founder of DeafDigest has died.

Barry with Sweetie
Barry with Sweetie

Barry, a 1966 graduate of Gallaudet University, began DeafDigest in the 1990s. For him it was a labor of love. Barry had written for and edited a myriad of publications for deaf people. He began writing sports when he worked for the Buff and Blue and the Tower Clock as a student at Gallaudet. He worked on publications for the National Association of the Deaf and he wrote for the Silent News. He looked into every issue–especially sports–and he remembered everything he saw.

Barry loved stories about deaf people and the deaf community, and he wanted to share them. He made up his own rules about sharing. Barry would read the news, glean its sense, are put it in his own words. He avoided names. For him what was significant was what happened to “a deaf person,” or a “CODA,” or  “an interpreter,” or a “hearing person.” And he would never print news if he felt it made deaf people look bad.

His goal wasn’t information sharing so much as staunch and profound advocacy.

In reporting on the achievements of young deaf and hard of hearing athletes in mainstream schools, Barry realized that he could help these students become aware of Gallaudet and at the same time help Gallaudet recruit talented students. He enthusiastically became a recruiter behind the scenes, passing information back and forth to and from the athletes and Gallaudet.

When he was honored by Gallaudet and inducted into its Hall of Fame, a speaker noted that Barry had helped recruit 30 mainstream players–half of the Gallaudet football team. In baseball, he had connected Gallaudet with the player who had been Conference Rookie of the Year, and in basketball, he had “found” the first team all conference point guard.

Barry was perhaps ahead of his time in recognizing that athletes, even as students, had rights. Once when a team member was denied decent shoes, he walked with him to the athletic director’s office. “Are you telling me,” he reportedly said, “that you are going to deny this Gallaudet student a chance to play because you will not buy him shoes?” The athletic director must have been embarrassed–the student got his shoes.

Barry wrote the acclaimed Gallaudet Football Centennial Book and a recent book on the history of basketball at Gallaudet. He always said that he wrote sports because he could “not play sports.” But he wrote sports because he loved sports, and he loved telling people about the remarkable athletic achievements of deaf players. Writing sports, like DeafDigest, was a passion and a commitment. It was based in his belief–not just that deaf people can do anything–but that that deaf people can do anything as well or better than anyone else–and the world should pay attention.

Barry also loved his family. He loved his daughter, Kelly, his daughter and son in law, Rachael and Matt and their son, Dominic, and his wife, Cathy, and his dog, Sweetie. And he cared about his deaf nieces Gittel and Toby and about Toby’s son, Natie.

 

  • Appreciation is expressed for the information in this article that came from a speech given during Barry’s induction into the Gallaudet Hall of Fame. 
  • Barry owns the domain of DeafDigest until 2024. This domain may be purchased for this time period for a donation to Gallaudet University Sports.

 

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