As far as I am concerned, there is only one event that has happened on this date in skeptical history. On August 19, 2007, Perry DeAngelis succumbed to his decade-long struggle with Scleroderma, an auto-immune disease with no known cause and no known cure.
The prognosis for those diagnosed with scleroderma varies, where some people succumb in as little as 5 years, others can live 50 years past diagnosis. Perry got about 10 years, some of them spent in varying degrees of pain and discomfort. Although he gave little public insight as to just how bad things got for him in the last year of his life, those of us closest to him knew, as visits to see him in the hospital became more frequent than days visiting with him at home.
Perry DeAngelis, along with Steven Novella and Bob Novella, made up the executive triumvirate which officially founded the Connecticut Skeptical Society (CSS) on January 1, 1996. Back in the day before the modern internet (yes, kids, there was such a time), there was one “official” source of skeptical news and information; CSICOP and their magazine, Skeptical Inquirer. Those familiar with SI in those days know that at the back of the magazine would appear the list of local skeptic groups around the country (and the world, for that matter.) One night sometime in late 1995, Perry was over Steve’s condo, casually flipping through a copy of SI. He was reading through the list of local groups, and commented to Steve: “There’s no local skeptics group in Connecticut. We should start one.”
This was our “Big Bang”, as far as The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe is measured. I am terribly biased when looking back at this, but I can’t find a scenario where the SGU would be today without Perry’s initiative and vision.
A few days after the CSS was officially formed, I was invited to join the organization as a member (I still have my original membership card.) Shortly afterwards, I became an active volunteer and consultant for CSS, once I finally figured out what skepticism was all about, thanks to Perry’s instruction one night over (what else) a board game. And just like that, my professional skeptical career began in earnest. Without the guidance and friendship of Perry, I am not sure I would have ever found skepticism on my own. I certainly can’t imagine having found it in a more gratifying way … alongside some of my best friends.
Lately I’ve been listening to old episodes of the SGU, reading through some old emails and chats between the two of us, and reading prior blog posts related to Perry here in The Rogues Gallery. One blog post in particular from another close deceased friend, Mike Lacelle (whom shared a special bond with Perry as each of them fought deathly illnesses together) deserves reading again.
Mike was just one of hundreds of thousands of people who were, and continue to be, influenced by the singular wit and wisdom “that is or was or ever will be” Perry DeAngelis.