1958-Jan. 30, 2013
Palo Alto, California
Lawrence Viariseo, who survived a fall off a 100-foot Sierra cliff, triumphed over bladder cancer and became an avid bicyclist despite being paralyzed, died Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, of cancer.
Viariseo was featured in an Aug. 4, 2012, Palo Alto Weekly story about his journey, in which he talked about his accident and struggles and his triumphs, and his goal to ride 100 miles to raise money for cancer research last September in the Canary Foundation Challenge.
He did not get to make the ride, having been diagnosed with a metastasizing cancer shortly before the event, according to a friend. But Viariseo fought the cancer with the same aplomb as he had for all of his other challenges. And he died shortly after telling his mother that he would be alright, a friend said.
His niece, Megan Cox, told the Canary Foundation that he was always grateful to Stanford University Medical Center for the care they had provided.
"As you may remember, my uncle was a paraplegic who had beat stage 4 bladder cancer once before. The doctors at Stanford he felt had saved his life. It meant the world to him to be entering into the challenge in 2012 to give back to those doctors," she said in a statement the foundation released.
Viariseo, 54, was a well-known fixture for many years at Peet's Coffee and Tea on Homer Avenue. He would frequently ride his bicycle or wheel his wheelchair down to the coffee shop.
An accomplished artist, he painted a pastel portrait of the late Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs as part of the Palo Alto Weekly's sponsorship of the artist's corner at the Palo Alto Festival of the Arts in August 2012.
Viariseo broke his back and was paralyzed from the waist down after falling off a 100-foot cliff near Lake Tahoe while skiing. He was just 21 years old.
Despite his paralysis, he built up his body and found he could control the quadriceps in his upper thighs and one knee. To cycle, he shifted his upper-body muscles to move his hips and propel the pedals; plastic braces supported his paralyzed legs.
"I didn't accept my disability on my doctors' terms. I accepted it on my own terms. Doctors can't tell you who you are going to be. They can't measure your heart," he told the Weekly last August.
Viariseo was a Palo Alto native and graduate of Cubberley High School. During his interview, he summed up his life's philosophy:
"I just know how lucky I am," he said.
Viariseo is survived by his mother, Alicia Boyd, sisters Janice Viariseo-Bothwell and Deborah Costella and step-brother Kirk Boyd, niece Megan Cox, and their families, and his longtime companion, Aviva Rochester.
A memorial service will be held Feb. 9 at 3 p.m. at the Palo Alto Art Center, 1313 Newell Road, Palo Alto.