It was just another story in some ways--a 33-year-old man was killed when his auto was struck by a drunk driver. But there's always much more to such a tragedy--the story of the life that was taken. His was quite a life, according to those who knew and loved him--a life of joy, hard work, dedication, humility and great influence.
Louis V. Fontana was born in Providence, RI in 1948, married his beloved Rosemary in 1974, moved to Maine in 1979. He met his untimely death here in 1982 from injuries received in an accident on Route 201.
Educated in the Providence schools, Lou graduated from Rhode Island College with a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master's in Education.
He was first employed at the J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center in Warwick, RI, from 1970-74 as Recreation Director, then as Adult Program Director of the Center's workshop training program. From 1974-77 Lou served as Teacher and Education Director at the Dr. Joseph P. Ladd Center in Exeter, RI. Until moving to Maine in 1979, he was Assistant Special Education Director for two years for the Northwest Education Region in Rhode Island.
For his last three years, Lou was a Special Education Consultant with the Maine Department of Education in Augusta. He and Rosemary lived in West Gardiner, then in Vassalboro. She yet resides in the Augusta area. The tragedy occurred as he was on his way home from a MADSEC event.
Lou Fontana Remembered by His Friends
While at the Maine Department of Education, Lou was involved in program reviews (evaluations of local public school special education programs). His style was to look at the aspects that were positive and constructive, as opposed to seeking out the negative.
Lou was not only a spokesman for all children but a champion of the needs of the most severely disabled. He was a part of all Department policy decisions that affected the severely disabled.
Both children and adults responded to his style. Lou was very sensitive and gentle with children, using humor and creativity. He frequently referred back to the youngsters he had worked with in Rhode Island, who had physical and emotional disabilities, as "F Troop" ("Fontana's Troop").
He often told of using "F & G" to reach his children ("Fun and Game"). His staff referred to him as "F & G Fontana." There were magic tricks--he loved the element of surprise. He found humor in everything.
Lou had taken the children no one else wanted to work with. He had an ability to reach their hearts and souls. He loved what he did and loved all children.
Lou loved all people and believed all children could succeed. He was able to see the unique strengths of all children.
He could make you feel at ease, relax you. All people were okay. He was playful, but in an appropriate manner, and never took himself too seriously. He was honest, caring and loving.
For Lou Fontana and Those Who Knew Him
(The following was written by a friend for Lou's memorial service, January 31, 1982.)
Cry out, cry out, Oh voices of anger, of grief, of disbelief,
Try to see when one caring person vacates
Others will come to fill the vacuum,
Realize that in the balance of all things,
There is imbalance; and when the weights are placed,
The scales never really stand true
Though they may look so....
Cry out, cry out, and get through the anger, the grief, the disbelief
And remember the pieces of his life that touched ourselves,
Even when his words or actions seemed like straws
He knew the straw well placed can bend a will
Can mend, can mend....
In the storm and quiet of our lives his celebration of life
Carried feeling and reason to our hearts and minds
With a special touch for those of us
Seeming out of tune or season....