Richard A. Bacas, 76, an Arlington resident who overcame polio to pursue a career as a certified public accountant, died Dec. 5 at Virginia Hospital Center of a brief respiratory illness as a result of the polio.
Mr. Bacas was born and raised in the District, except for the time he spent in rehabilitation at Warm Springs, Ga. He was a ninth-grader at Anacostia High School when he was stricken in the summer of 1944 after swimming in a public pool all day. The disease left him almost totally paralyzed.
A family friend approached William D. Hassett, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's personal secretary, who arranged for the young Mr. Bacas to be accepted for therapy at Warm Springs, where the president convalesced after contracting polio in 1921. Accompanied by his parents, the 15-year-old arrived by train in November 1944. Lying on a stretcher, unable to move and in terrible pain, he was, in the words of his son, "nearly dead, physically and psychologically."
In later years, he described his arrival at Warm Springs as "going from the dark side of the moon to the brightest light he had ever known." He stayed until mid-1946, when, after two spinal-fusion surgeries and intensive rehabilitation, he walked out on crutches. He was told he had a life expectancy of 40 years.
Back home in the District, he transferred to Eastern High School, because the building had an elevator, and graduated in 1948 on an accelerated schedule. In 1950, he decided to use a wheelchair instead of braces and crutches; he wanted to be able to carry books and a briefcase in college and beyond.
He also learned to drive a 1948 Oldsmobile equipped with then-new Hydromatic automatic transmission, making the car drivable with hand controls.
He drove his Olds to California and enrolled at UCLA, where he received a bachelor's degree in accounting, graduating magna cum laude in 1955.
He became a partner in the Washington accounting firm of M.B. Hariton & Co. in 1954, at the time the largest independent CPA firm in the District. His expertise was in real estate, estate matters and tax and trust. He retired as managing partner in 1985.
Before being stricken with polio, Mr. Bacas dreamed of attending the U.S. Naval Academy and becoming a naval aviator. Because that wasn't possible, he compensated by becoming a season ticket holder to Midshipmen football games. He loved the city of Annapolis. He was a longtime Washington Redskins fan as well.
A daughter, Ann R. Bacas, died in 1984.
Survivors include his wife of 48 years, Esther Randall Bacas of Arlington; two children, Andrew R. Bacas of Ross, Calif., and Mary E. Glerum of Kenilworth, Ill.; a brother, Harry A. Bacas of Arlington; a sister, Elaine B. Sharpe of Silver Spring; and six grandchildren.