Jerry Newport always knew there was something wrong with him. But as he was growing up, he didn't know what it was. Just when he felt he would never find his way, he went to the movies. He saw "Rain Man," which starred Dustin Hoffman as Raymond Babbitt, an autistic man who spent his whole life in an institution. Babbitt had some unusual skills, which Jerry discovered he had, too. When a man in the movie asked Babbitt how much 4,343 times 1,234 was, Jerry knew the answer. "The answer was 5,359,262," says Jerry. "I said it before he [Babbitt] said it. People in front of me in the theater just looked around. And then, I realized, 'Uh-oh.'" As Jerry watched Hoffman play Babbitt, he said, "That's me." Babbitt was 40 when he first realized he was autistic. So Jerry set out to learn everything he could about autism, and found his way to the department of psychiatry at UCLA. There, he was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, which most experts say is a distinctive form of autism. Asperger individuals are often highly intelligent, with unusual skills. But like other autistic people, they suffer from severe sensitivity to light, sounds, smell and touch. Once Jerry knew what he had, he went looking for others like him. He organized a support group of grownups with autism, and they met on a regular basis. He became in demand as a public speaker, demystifying for others the condition of autism. He wrote self-help books for people like him. He also wrote an autobiography they hoped would appeal to a larger audience. Hollywood producers had the same idea when, inspired by Jerry and his wife Mary (who also had Aspergers,) they made a film based loosely on their lives Mozart and the Whale. The movie captured the social discomfort that people like Jerry always feel. But at that stage in his real life, Jerry said he came to terms with who he is. "Rather than being obsessed with trying to be in step with the world, I've come to accept the fact that in certain ways I never will be. And I just don't hate myself for it," said Jerry. "I think that once I started learning how to love myself as I truly am, it made it easier for other people to love me the same way." Sadly - Jerry suffered a stroke and entered an assisted care facility in Tucson several years ago. Shortly after, Mary passed away and Jerry continued to deteriorate. He passed peacefully on January 24, 2023. R.I.P. brother.
Friends & Family
John Newport 1943 - 2023; James (Jim) Newport; Ann Newport