I met Kamel Muakkassa at a wedding party in 2003, the very day I retired from Goodyear. My wife, Salma, had known his wife, Rola, for 10 years. By the end of the evening, I felt I had known Dr. Muakkassa just as long.
I soon discovered that I was not alone. Dr. Muakkassa had a rare gift for human attraction. He connected with people immediately. Besides his widely acknowledged surgical skills, it is this oversized human dimension that made him the widely renowned neurosurgeon he was.
My wife and I attended the calling hours following his recent death at age 62. Endless streams of people, progressing in long lines to pay their respects, included not just his family and friends but also grateful patients and their families.
There were many stories of Dr. Muakkassa getting up in the middle of the night to rush to a hospital for an emergency brain surgery after a car crash. Other stories told of how he courageously took his own practice of medicine to the outer edge, often taking risks to save lives.
He was a very talented man with many strings to his bow. An accomplished musician, an opera lover and a bridge player of international caliber, he excelled, too, in sports.
He enjoyed tennis, golf, skiing and soccer, the latter until his wife convinced him that at 60, it is safer to watch the game on television.
But as impressive as the diversity of his interests was, it was his intense desire to share his knowledge and his passions with other people that was his real trademark. Dr. Muakkassa was a teacher at heart.
Along with my wife and many other friends, I learned to play bridge from him. He was The Professor. He had written a bridge manual and was thinking of publishing it. His illness interfered with his plan.
Above all, he was a generously caring person who loved life passionately. And this passion was infectious. He became the center of a large group of people who started out as friends and ended up feeling part of his family.
His loss will be felt not only by his family and friends, but also by the whole medical community in Northeast Ohio. We are all the poorer for it.
I have been a longtime customer at the Mogadore Speedway, where the beloved Ritchie Stefan works, and have always overlooked his abrupt manner because I truly believe he is special. I did not know it was autism, but God bless him.
However, it looks like vigilante justice has overtaken Mogadore despite its good intentions.
Autistics are known to act out at unpredictable times, and we must accommodate them, but when they bite someone, that is a bridge too far.
The poor victim, Justin McHenry, has a very good case to sue Speedway. He tried to settle, but his entire town has risen up against him after he was bitten by an employee — provoked or not. I know the Americans with Disabilities Act makes a lot of demands on businesses, but allowing disabled employees to bite customers is probably not one of them.
Maybe an adult in Mogadore could have ironed this out between the two of them, but it may be too late now. McHenry will probably have to move, before he wins a big bunch of money in his lawsuit.
I am amazed that the Cuyahoga Falls parks board turned down a compromise presented by both sides in the debate about two adults in the same household getting a discounted rate. The three members who voted this down have disgraced the city. The mayor should replace them.