At only 19, George Fussner was like a lot of other young men his age who answered their country’s call to serve in the Korean War. The son of a farmer who grew corn and soybeans, George grew up in Toulon, Illinois, a small town three hours west of Chicago. His patriotism though, would prove costly. Wounded by shrapnel, his left leg was amputated below the knee.
From that twist of fate, young George turned what first seemed like a setback into a positive life-changing career. He began by working for the prosthetist in Illinois who made his leg. For him to advance his manufacturing technical skills though, he needed to head east where he enrolled in a prosthetics and orthotics program at New York University. After further studies at UCLA in California, George interviewed with Ernie Boas, who hired him in 1965. He became a partner in the business before taking over in the early 1980s.
George and now his son Jeff, who has been Boas Surgical Inc.’s chief executive officer since 1999, are giving back as longtime sponsor of Good Shepherd’s National Amputee Golf Association First Swing/Learn to Golf clinic for people with disabilities. Boas has sponsored the clinic since it began 26 years ago, providing funding, expertise and support from such staff members as Ken Doe, a prosthetist who has been lending his enthusiasm and experience for years.
“This is important for us because our goal is to get people back to the lives they want to have beyond their injuries and limitations,” Jeff says. “Amputees and physically-challenged people are more mainstreamed than ever before.”
Jeff’s decision to pursue a career like his father’s came while he was studying for a bachelor’s degree in fine arts at Kutztown University. Realizing he wanted to do something more personally fulfilling, in his junior year he began working for his father during the summer and on his breaks. That brought him to Good Shepherd where he and his father spent hours helping fit patients with the proper prosthetics and orthotics.
“I just loved the patient contact and decided that’s what I was going to do as a career,” says Jeff, who furthered his studies at UCLA and Northwestern before becoming partners with his father.
Boas’ support has proved essential to strengthening Good Shepherd’s mission of helping people with disabilities achieve lives of greater independence. “It has been very rewarding to help people with an amputation or disability learn or relearn the sport of golf using adaptive devices or techniques,” says Linda Bollinger, a recreational therapist at Good Shepherd who coordinates the clinic and other fitness programs. “Boas is one of the main reasons the clinic has been so successful. I don’t know where we’d be without them.”
Adds George, “I hope to inspire others to realize they can live a full life and pursue their dreams.”
Reprinted with permission of Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network.