Click here to read the articles by Anne Jakowenko 

Photos of the meeting of Beryl Longuet with Barbara and Barry Gibb after many years.
2013, copyright David Longuet. 

story: Anne Jakowenko

To say that I felt inadequate after my afternoon of science lessons is an understatement. The scientists at the Diabetes Research Institute who shared their ideas with me are doing honorable and noble work. I was in awe of them and inspired to step up my game, both in my field of study and my charitable endeavors. No wonder Barry and Linda Gibb have worked with this Institute for decades. My mind was reeling, wishing I could reach Bee Gee fans around the world so they could be a part of this incredibly decent cause.

Gary and Aimee with THE MAN

My last stop was my meeting with Gary Kleiman, Director of Medical Development. Upon arriving at his office, I am greeted by Aimee Siegel-Harris, Manager of Donor Relations, who has worked with Gary for 20 years. She is a ball of energy and enthusiasm for both her work and the Gibbs. Speaking of Barry and Linda on a first-name basis and certainly a “Gibb insider”, I am excited to hear her tell me how much their involvement with DRIF has meant to the Institute and just how nice they really are to everyone involved. Aimee has a face that projects an inner light; it is clear that she loves her work and her colleagues. I want to take her home with me, and I need her to be my new best friend.

Gary and Barry in 1988

It’s not easy to describe Gary Kleiman. He’s a real dichotomy, a diminutive man who immediately becomes larger than life once he begins to speak and share his thoughts. If Joan Rivers could have a true male counterpart, Gary would be my first choice. Quick-witted and full of good humor, he is also seriously focused on his true goal in life, which is to spread the word and garner support for the work of the DRIF. Speaking first-hand as a man whose life has been full of medical challenges due to his own battle with diabetes, 

Gary and Barry in 1988

Gary is anxious to give props to the scientists, doctors, technicians and staff who work long hours to find a cure. “We are totally cure-focused. We’ve made a commitment to cure Type 1 diabetes, to find a biological cure. We are the only center in the world dedicated to this.” It was Gary’s parents, Martin and Marge Kleiman who, along with a small group of families, established the DRIF in 1971 to assist a small program at The University of Miami Medical School. The DRIF was started to support research, education and patient care. Having experienced the circle of life with the Gibbs and all the highs and lows that come along with that, Gary is indeed a close friend who knows what this family is all about. When I first mentioned Barry Gibb’s name, a soft expression of warmth crossed Gary’s face, and then he broke into a grin and said, “Ah, Barry, he’s really something.”

With Gary in his office

Although wistful at times when commenting on Maurice (“I really loved that guy.” and Andy “He was such a great kid.”), it still is apparent that he treasures his camaraderie with these special men and appreciates his long friendship with the family. So how did the Gibbs get started with the DRIF? It was Gary’s parents who asked Barry and Linda, in the mid-seventies, if they might send some kids to Diabetes Camp. 

With Gary in his office

The Kleimans lived across the street from Barry and Linda, and it seemed that the neighborhood had several people whose lives had been dramatically affected by diabetes. The Gibbs agreed and then chose the DRIF to benefit from their first charity tennis tournament. Gary laughed when telling me, “Barry even donated his Donzi boat. We were shocked. All four brothers sang together.” I tried to imagine what it must have been like to witness that or any of the other events that Gary told me about, from Love and Hope Balls to just “sitting around listening to them sing after an event, having a jam session.” His voice was full of affection for the brothers, and he told me that it is a huge plus to have someone of Barry’s stature supporting the DRIF. “You get that credibility. He’s always bringing us in new support.” I was glad to hear that Barry was still on that white charger, right where I put him when I was 8-years-old.

So what can Bee Gee fans do to help? First, please realize that your family can be affected by this disease at any moment. Diabetes does not discriminate. There are several avenues fans can follow, and here are some of them: Go to Cure Alliance on Facebook and click LIKE. Go to DRI Facebook sites, Diabetes Research Institute and Cure Diabetes and LIKE. Spread awareness about DRIF and its work by educating yourself. Go to their website and learn more about the DRIF at www.diabetesresearch.org Attend an event. No matter where you live as a Bee Gee fan, there is probably a global partner near you. The DRIF has established the Diabetes Research Institute Federation, a global alliance of researchers. Italy, Spain, Sweden, Brazil, Israel, Japan and Argentina are just some of the countries involved. Check them out. Send an ecard. The DRIF has many choices of cards for all occasions. Ask your company and coworkers to support the DRIF. DONATE NOW. Imagine if all of the Bee Gee fans around the world donated $5 each, how much research that would fund. We all know what Barry’s smile means to us. Fans write about it all the time, and their devotion to him is steadfast. So just think how happy he, (and Linda) would be if fans helped the DRIF. It would be a smile to end all smiles!

Special thanks to Debbi Allison for her help and support and to Gary Kleiman and Lauren Schreier for arranging my visit. Your halos are very, very shiny!