Ira was the first diabetic I met. It was 1988 at Camp Nejeda’s open house day. He was wearing a cutoff sweatshirt and sporting a ponytail, his typical uniform at the time.

He told me about when he was in college, and how he used to keep his room keys tied to his boot so he wouldn’t lose them. Great idea until he got home and his foot stuck to the doorknob and he fell over—every time!

Ira is a storyteller. The time I spent with him that first afternoon at Camp Nejeda remains fresh in my mind. As his stories went on, I realized not one of them had anything to do with being held back. In fact he hardly mentioned diabetes. Ira does things and he does them his way, diabetes or not.

More than two decades later, Ira hasn’t changed, save for the cutoff sweatshirt and the ponytail. Oh, and the third kidney! Ira had a kidney transplant about a month before I photographed him back at work on the roof.

Ira has had diabetes since 1972; he was diagnosed when he was two and half years old. ”I don’t know life without it. I don’t find it difficult. Its what I’m accustomed to,” he says.

Back then there was no at home blood testing, his diet was rigid and restrictive and there were no insulin pumps or synthetic insulins. The changes in those areas since have made his life better.