One of the local pioneers of the mobility industry, John Bussani, has passed the torch to the next generation. John, who founded Bussani Mobility 42 years ago, recently announced his retirement.
Bussani remembers riding on a train in the dark with the sounds of war blaring all around, as his mother held him below the window to protect him. At five years of age, he and his mother were fleeing Yugoslavia to join his father who had defected to Italy to make a better life for them.
He had his first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, at age 11, from the ship that brought his family to America. They settled in Hoboken, N.J. and then moved to Freeport, N.Y.
Bussani served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. While hospitalized with a broken arm in Germany, he watched as disabled soldiers returned from the war, and he wondered how he could help.
After the war, he worked as a draftsman and then started repairing automobile transmissions. While having dinner with friends one night, he was introduced to a polio survivor. They discussed what types of vehicle modifications would be needed for people with disabilities. He learned about a man in New Jersey who was installing hand controls in cars. He met with Alan Ruprecht of Drive Master, who showed him how to do the installations -- and that was the beginning of a journey that spanned over four decades and touched thousands of people.
Bussani traveled around Long Island working out of the trunk of his car to give independence to people who were unable to use their feet and legs to drive. The word spread and people started asking Bussani for help with their vehicles. Eventually, he bought a building in Baldwin, N.Y., where he did modifications, then moved the growing business to Freeport and later Bethpage, which is now the headquarters for Bussani Mobility. The company continued to grow and now has locations in Smithtown in Suffolk County and in Mamaroneck in Westchester County.
Over the years, Bussani became well known in his field. He lectured at occupational therapy classes at SUNY Farmingdale, Touro College, and Stony Brook University. He opened his facility to students on a regular basis and actively participated in NMEDA (National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association), the Adaptive Driving Alliance and other leading industry organizations. In particular, he became an advocate of higher safety standards in vehicle modifications.
The mobility industry continued to develop as manufacturers like BraunAbility began mass-producing wheelchair accessible vehicles and advanced technologies became available. Bussani Mobility expanded accordingly, keeping quality workmanship and integrity in the forefront of daily operations.
One thing that has not changed at Bussani Mobility according to Bussani which is his original vision -- to help people living with physical disabilities get mobile and to enjoy full and complete lives.
John’s son Dan has been involved in the business his entire life. “I even remember driving my toy car around the parking lot as a child while Dad was changing peoples’ lives for the good,” said Dan Bussani. Dan has now taken over the business as Co-Owner and CEO. Long-time employee Dan Walsh is also a Co-Owner and COO. Stephen Wilmer completes the team as the third Co-Owner and CFO.
John Bussani was an only child. He was married to Barbara for nearly 40 years when she passed 10 years ago. He has two sons – Daniel and John Christopher (J.C.) who is an engineer. John is spending time enjoying his grandchildren.
Photo Left to Right: Dan Walsh, Dan Bussani,Stephen Wilmer, and John Bussani
The Industry Says…
John is a true pioneer in the mobility industry. Those of us with mobility needs have had our lives transformed by his vision, determination and creativity. He has given me, and many others, a means to regain lost independence and lifechanging freedom. Thank you for everything John...enjoy your retirement.
-Tony Amorello, customer & friend
John’s development of his business and his hand in the nurturing of the vehicle modification industry, setting the standards to what it has become nationally, has advanced the lives of individuals with disabilities throughout our country making people mobile and, most importantly, independent. Where would we be without John’s vision and hard work? Thank you John Bussani.
-Robert Pipia, Nassau County district court Judge customer & friend
John and the Drive-Master family go back at least 48 years when my dad Alan Ruprecht and John met. John started buying his hand controls. We have had a wonderful friendship since then, and will continue. To fish and call the nurse for libations. Congratulations on your retirement, you have certainly built a lasting legacy. Lv Ya man, Peter.”
-Peter Ruprecht president, Drive-Master Co., Inc.
When I was a green horn in the industry 14 years ago, I tucked myself under John’s wing and said ‘teach me.’ He was so willing to help, a great mentor, and we’ve been friends ever since.
-Greg Kiser, vice president of consumer sales, BraunAbility
John Bussani represents the very best in the accessiblemobility industry from his warm and welcoming personality to the products and services he delivers to his customers. It has been an honor for me to do business with JB.
-Brendan Healy, Eastern Regional sales manager, Q’Straint
This article appeared in Able Newspaper - Volume 26 - Number 5 - November 2016