Shirley Jennings, the blind man whose life inspired a feature film, died on Oct. 26 from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 63.
Jennings was three years old when he contracted meningitis, polio and cat scratch fever. The illnesses stole his eyesight.
After four decades of blindness, Jennings underwent two operations to restore his ability to see. The surgeries were successful, but he suffered from sensory overload. Less than a year later, Jennings came down with pneumonia, which left him disabled and caused much of his restored vision to vanish.
At the time, Jennings was working as a masseuse at the YMCA in DeKalb, Ga. The pneumonia cost him his job and his home, which was owned by the Y. In 1999, his story became the inspiration for the film, “At First Sight,” starring Val Kilmer and Mira Sorvino.
In the final years of his life, Jennings began painting abstracts. His first one-man art show was held in 2002 at the Center Street Arts Gallery in Conyers, Ga.