Well-known TV writer-producer, Rift Fournier, died of cancer on Oct. 6 in St. Louis. Born in Wichita and raised in Omaha, Rift was a superstar high school athlete until polio at 16 claimed the use of his legs. He went on to craft an extraordinary career, first in advertising and then in TV. Just some of his credits include "Our People," for Chicago Public Television, the first ever series to focus on African-American life in the United States, the Emmy-winning NBC children's series "The Go Show!" and many episodic TV dramas, including "Kojak," "Baretta," "Matlock" and "NYPD Blue." In 1976, the President's Committee for Employment of the Physically Handicapped selected Fournier to be honored as the outstanding "handicapped artist" in television. Only at the behest of NBC did Fournier accept the award, and he did so saying, "I refuse to be defined as a man or artist by my wheelchair...to recognize an artist in terms of a disability neither serves the artist or society since all artists create from their woundedness/limitations, and that is what connects them with society." An Artist in Residence at Lindenwood University, in St. Charles, MO, since 2007, he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree there in May. He is survived by his four children, Noel Fournier, of Atlanta, Joene Hendry (Ralph Chappell), of East Haddam CT, Jackee Allen (Jeff), of Leggett, CA, and Clarissa Lyons (John Shumway), of New York City, along with six grandchildren, one great-granddaughter, and a brother, J.B. Fournier (Nan), of Chicago. A sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous for more than 30 years, it is entirely keeping with Rift's lifelong desire to help others that he chose to leave his body for research at the St. Louis University Medical School.
Published in Los Angeles Times on Oct. 11, 2013.