Living Well

Fate tried to slow Carmela Cantisani down, but she refused, always wanting to go faster. Born on a primitive farm in Southern Italy with a degenerative eye disease that eventually left her blind, Cantisani would go on in life to conquer a new culture and language in the U.S. and eventually the ski slopes, where she would reign as a world champion Alpine skier. “I love speed. Because I can’t drive, [skiing] was my next best thing,” Cantisani says. The 73-year-old gave up on using a cane at age 25 in favor of guide dogs, because dogs allow her to walk fast. She currently lives in Del Mesa Carmel with her husband, Gilbert Converset, and her standard poodle guide dog, Seymour. Cantisani was one of five children; three were born with retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary disease that breaks down the retinas over time.At age 5, Cantisani was sent with her siblings to a boarding school for the blind in Naples. It was traumatic to be separated from her parents and the farm life she grew to love, she says.“But little by little I started growing up and managing my life just like everybody else. One way or another you make do with what you have.” Cantisani came to the U.S. with family at age 13, yet another traumatic event having to learn a new language spoken and in braille. It was like being “encapsulated in a dark tube of gibberish,” she says. Cantisani went on to college and later came to Monterey to attend the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. She taught Italian at the Defense Language Institute. Her world widened more when someone invited her to Lake Tahoe where a group was teaching people with disabilities how to ski. Cantisani loved it, skiing with a trained guide.Within two years she was winning competitions. She won three gold medals representing the U.S. in the Winter World Championship for the Disabled in 1986. She won two bronze medals in the 1988 Winter Paralympics representing Italy. Cantisani detailed her triumphs as well as her life’s struggles, in a memoir published in 2022, I Can See the Moon, But Not the Stars. She took the name from a time when her father, seeing a very young Cantisani pointing at the moon, expressed hope she would see. Her mother said,“She can see the moon but she’ll never be able to see the stars.” Cantisani never let her disability stop her. “I consider myself to be very fortunate for a lot of reasons,” she says. Need for Speed Blindness did not stop Carmela Cantisani from a love of the ski slopes—or life itself. By Pam Marino DANIEL DREIFUSS Advocacy and Protection Abogacía y Protección U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Servicios de Inmigración y Ciudadanía • Citizenship and immigration of family members, US employment, and green cards • Humanitarian efforts, adoptions, civic integration, and genealogy • Ciudadanía y inmigración de miembros de la familia, empleo en los Estados Unidos, y tarjetas de residencia • Esfuerzos humanitarios, adopciones, integración cívica, y genealogía M-F/ L-V 8am-8pm Automated line/ Línea automatizada 24/7 1-800-375-5283 YWCA Monterey County YWCA Condado de Monterey • Domestic violence prevention • Emotional support services • Information and education • Advocacy • Prevención de violencia doméstica • Servicios de apoyo emocionales • Información y educación • Abogacía M-F/L-V 9am-5pm 831-422-8602 Salinas 831-372-6300/831-757-1001 Crisis Line/ Línea de crisis 26 The Best of Monterey Bay® Living Well 2024-2025