6/16 – Gentle Heron, Virtually Undaunted (Rogersville, Tennessee)

The first avatar Dr. Ikegami visited with the NHK TV crew was Alice Kruger, founder and president of Virtual Ability Inc., known in Second Life as Gentle Heron.  After all, it was meeting Gentle at a Second Life conference early on that inspired the expanded focus of Eiko’s research scope in virtual worlds to further include disability communities.

Mental Health Seminar 7AM_Gentle
Gentle Heron is the founder and president of Virtual Ability Inc., which is the most active group for people with disabilities in Second Life.


Just before arrival.  Photo Credits: Eiko Ikegami

Rogersville, Tennessee is a small town with a population of about 5,000, characterized by a lot of green, and many farmhouses. Alice moved here from Denver, CO in January 2017, because it is less expensive to live here with her small social security payments; she did not have any friends or relatives in the area.

Good friends happy to see each other again.


Although Alice is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and unable to get around easily, in Second Life as Gentle, she is virtually unhindered.

NPC 5-11 - Gentle_001
At Nonprofit Commons. Gentle gives many presentations, representing Virtual Ability Inc., throughout the year.  Screen captures: Stephanie Currier

What she calls her “servant leadership” style and attentive presence, coupled with the skills honed during her many years as a teacher, have inspired and empowered many people to find ways they too can be of support to others, in spite of limitations.

Relationships Presentation - Clift at VAI 5-11_008
Sojourner’s Auditorium. Gentle usually hosts, or transcribes if an event takes place in voice. VAI has placed a high value on transcribing voice into text to accommodate distinct disabilities, and many other organizations in SL have followed suit.

It was 10 years ago that Alice came to Second Life, and soon created a beautiful virtual public space for people with disabilities.

Dr. Ikegami asked Alice,  “What if you had not encountered the virtual world ten years ago, what might your present life have been?” Alice’s answer was simple and straight forward. “I could be very lonely. Loneliness is a torture for a disabled person, like a solitary cell is the most inhumane form of punishment.”


During a visit to the market, Eiko was introduced to a friend of Gentle’s, who farms one hundred and eighty types of dahlias. Surprised by their unusual beauty, Eiko couldn’t help but buy a gift bouquet, extending wishes that they would last a very long time.

Perhaps touched by the frailty of the moment, Gentle responded, “A bouquet of flowers remains beautiful when it is wilted. Flowers are like our life. People with disability have to face decline and death.”  She elaborated on the appreciative sentiment later, sending an essay she had written, “Wilted Bouquet.”

“[The flowers’] persistent beauty contrasting strongly with the crumbling husks surrounding it reminds me that there is always joy if we look past the faded sections of our lives. It is an object lesson on my kitchen table.” from Wilted Bouquet by Gentle Heron (Alice Kruger)

Gentle gives gifts of local delicacies to the NHK crew. Mr. Takeuchi is quite moved.


Alice and Eiko (center), with Alice’s daughter Sarah (left), NHK crew, and the family dog, Pochi



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