BVA Board of Directors
Joe J. Parker,
U.S. Navy, Ret., a native of Transylvania County, North Carolina, and a current resident of the city of Pisgah Forest, was elected July 20, 2010 as Director of District 3 and three years later was elected as BVA’s National Secretary. The latter action became official at Joe’s swearing-in at the BVA 68th National Convention on August 23, 2013 in Spokane, Washington.
Joe represents blinded veterans residing along the eastern seaboard from New Jersey to South Carolina and is a member himself of the North Carolina Regional Group.
Joe became legally blind in 1998 as a result of an acute exposure to Agent Orange as a Chief Construction Electrician in the northern regions of South Vietnam decades earlier. The exposure affected his pancreas and developed into diabetes and diabetic retinopathy. He served two combat tours in Vietnam during the 1960s.
Retiring from the Navy in 1989 as a Chief Petty Officer after 30 years of service, Joe also worked as a civil servant for 12 years for the Department of Labor. He retired from DOL as a GS-12.
“My fear is that other veterans will suffer the catastrophic total loss of their sight as I have,” he has said. “I have dedicated myself to other veterans and to blinded veterans in particular in the hope that my blindness will not be in vain—that I can prevent others from suffering the pitfalls that I have suffered and help them retain or regain their independence.”
Joe’s family first settled in Transylvania County in the late 1700s along the headwaters of the French Broad River. He attended school first in Brevard, North Carolina, and then in Rosman. He enlisted in the Navy in 1959.
Prior to his election as a BVA District Director, Joe served the organization locally as Treasurer of the North Carolina Regional Group. He also founded the Western Chapter of the group and established a volunteer office for BVA at the Asheville VA Medical Center. He is also an active, contributing member of The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and the Fleet Reserve Association, having participated in the planning of parades, the production of patriotic ceremonies, and performance of honor guard details at funerals of Transylvania County veterans.
Joe is a past Senior Vice Commander of Post 4309 of VFW and a past 1st Vice Commander of Brevard’s Post 88 of The American Legion. He is an active public speaker promoting the use of guide dogs, a past member of the Pisgah Forest Lions Club and Lion of the Year in 2005-06, a past member of the local historical museum’s Board of Directors, a current member of Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge, and a member of the local Moose lodge.
National Vice President
, Missouri Regional Group, was born in Iowa City, Iowa, and moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 1960. He graduated eighth in his class from the city’s Central High School in 1963.
Paul briefly attended Antioch College (Yellow Springs, Ohio) before induction into the U.S. Navy on May 16, 1966. He served shore duty in San Diego at the Naval Training Center and the Naval Electronics Laboratory Center. He was aboard the USS Luzerne County in the Mekong Delta. An accident on the ship led to early onset of glaucoma and his medical discharge in 1969.
Paul worked in the restaurant industry and in retail management before increasing blindness led to loss of employment in 1983. Following blind rehabilitation training in Kansas City and his enrollment at the Central Blind Rehabilitation Center (Hines, Illinois), Paul returned to college in 1986. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology at the University of Missouri Kansas City and Master’s Degree in Social Work in 1991 from the University of Kansas.
He began working for the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1992 at the Kansas City Vet Center and later went to work at the West Palm Beach BRC in 2000. In 2004 he was selected as a VIST Coordinator at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center. He was active in the Florida Regional Group while working at West Palm Beach, serving as a District Director within the group, Vice President, and President.
Paul retired in 2009 and returned to Kansas City, where he almost immediately became involved in the rejuvenation of the Missouri Regional Group where he was originally a charter member. Paul served as both Secretary and President of the group until his election to national office on August 23, 2013.
Joe McNeil Sr.
,Georgia Regional Group, was born in 1958 in Philadelphia, PA -Westside. Joe was the oldest of 7 brothers and sisters, and the first in his family to graduate from college with a BS in Business and a Masters in Human Resource. After graduating from high school Joe joined the Army National Guard and worked his way through college, joining the Army ROTC program. Upon graduation he received his commission as a 2nd Lt U.S. Army, Field Artillery. His duty assignments included 2nd Infantry Division Korea, 42nd FA Brigade, V Corps G3 Operations Germany, 197th Infantry Brigade Fort Benning and 18thAirborne Corps Fort Bragg. He held numerous Staff jobs during his tenure. Upon his diagnosis in October 1989 of Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) he was processed off of active duty as a Captain, after which he re-enlisted in the Georgia Army National Guard and served 4 years before his vision prevented him from doing his assigned duties as Personnel Staff Noncommissioned Officer (PSNCO).
Joe is a multi-graduate of 3 different blind centers, he joined BVA in 2005 and has held positions as Georgia Regional Group Vice-President, Columbus Chapter from 2005 - 2007, Georgia Regional Group Secretary from 2005 - 2007, Georgia Regional Group President from 2007 - 2015, and BVA National Treasurer 2015 - current.
Since his retirement Joe is an accomplished entrepreneur, father of six and grandfather of four. He serves his community by sitting on numerous boards representing the blind community as an ambassador to our capabilities. He has membership in multiple service and civic organizations, and is a certified National Veterans Service Officer (NVSO) for the organization.
Some favorite mottoes you may hear Joe say is: “Information is Knowledge, Knowledge is Power, and Power Wielded properly is an awesome Weapon,” and “Perception is not Reality.” You can find him speaking to civic groups and churches about blindness and the help that is available.
Director of District 1
, New York Regional Group, Director of District 1 was elected to his current post in July 2015. Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1948, he enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve 1967. Following basic training he attended reserve meetings, worked, and continued his college education at St. John’s University.
In October of 1969 Dennis began two years of active duty, attending a Class A Quartermaster School and engaging in UniTas XI War Games with the South American Navies. Shortly thereafter, he was deployed to Cuba’s south shore where Russia was starting to build a nuclear submarine base. Several weeks went by before the United States forced Russia to dismantle the base and the force could return home.
In May of 1971 Dennis was told that he was not hearing some orders and was sent over to the base hospital. When the hospital detected hearing loss, he was medivacked to Philadelphia Naval Hospital, where he was diagnosed with bilateral hearing lost. Upon leaving the hospital he learned also that something was wrong with his vision. He was then honorably discharged from the Navy with service connection for his hearing but no service connection for vision.
A month following his marriage to Marilyn Skalicky in August of 1974, Dennis was steering a boat at night when his father noticed that he did not see a bridge. During the months that followed, he went to several eye specialists who gave him a diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa. Two years later he was also diagnosed with Macular Degeneration.
Dennis worked in Western Electric’s Accounting Department while continuing his education at Pace College at night. He graduated in 1980. His son, Dennis, was born in 1977 and daughter, Meghan, in 1980. Because the worsening of his vision he was forced to go on disability in July of 1981 and, as he puts it, became the original Mr. Mom.
From 1988 until 1995 Dennis accumulated more than 1,750 hours as a volunteer at the St. Albans VA Extended Care Center. He learned about the Blinded Veterans Association in 1987 and joined the organization immediately as a member of the New York Regional Group. He attended the Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Center in 1993 for ten weeks and returned to receive “JAWS for DOS” computer training in 1994.
In 1996 Gerard McDonnell, Past National President and president of the New York Regional Group at the time, asked Dennis to reconstruct a regional group newsletter that had been dormant for several years. He agreed, beginning with one issue per year at first and then expanding to the current four times a year. The newsletter has continued uninterrupted ever since.
In 1998 Dennis was elected to the office of secretary of the regional group, serving for two years. He then did the same in the positions of vice president and president. When then president Fred Knapp became ill in early 2011, Dennis filled in as interim president and was later re-elected for two additional terms consecutively. He was the Chairman of the BVA 61st National Convention in Buffalo, New York, in 2006.
Dennis served as the Veteran Integrated Service Network 3 representative for BVA, allowing him the opportunity to speak on behalf of blinded veterans before the CARES Commission. In 2005 he was appointed by Governor George Pataki to serve for a three-year term on the State Rehabilitation Council and was later re-elected to serve an additional three-year term.
For his noteworthy service to his regional group and BVA generally Dennis received the Irving Diener Award at the BVA 65th National Convention in Arlington, Virginia, on August 28, 2010.
Director of District 2
David "Dave" Fox, Kentucky and Indiana (OKI) Regional Group, was elected Director of District 2 in July 2015. Dave has served as president, secretary, sergeant-at-arms and chaplain of his regional group over the last four years.
Dave is originally from Warren, Pennsylvania, where he graduated from Warren Area High School in 1965. He spent a year in culinary school before joining the U.S. Air Force in 1966, where he spent 5½ years before receiving a medical retirement in 1972 due to the start of vision loss. Not one to let his vision keep him down, he went on to spend the next 25 years working as a Civil Service employee until his retirement as a Supervisor in 1995. Also, during this time, he was involved with an organization called the Civilian Welfare Council as President for a period of two years. Since his retirement, he has spent a fair amount of time volunteering at the Dayton VA Medical Center, working closely with the Low Vision Clinic staff.
His favorite activity is bowling, but he also likes to fish and would hunt if he had better eyesight. Dave is a past Commander for an AMVETS Post. He does belong to one other organization, but devotes most of his time to the Blinded Veterans Association.
For the last 44 years, Dave and his wife Carol have lived in Dayton, Ohio. They met and married while Dave was stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. They have two children, Brian and Emily.
Director of District 3
, Mid-Atlantic Regional Group, was born in January 1948 in Mebane, North Carolina. He grew up in a rural area about three miles outside of town. Vernon attended the Alamance County Schools from grades 1 through 12. He joined the US Army on March 9, 1967. Following basic training at Fort Braggs, NC, he was assigned to the US Army Combat Infantry Unit and was sent to Vietnam from 1967 through 1969 as a squad leader. During his tour of duty, he received the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantry Medal, National Defense Service medal with the bronze star, Vietnam Campaign Ribbon, the 1960 Sharpshooter’s Badge, Marksman Badge with Auto Rifle Bar, and Marksman Badge with the Rifle Bar.
Upon leaving the Army, Vernon spent a year readjusting to civilian life. In 1970, he began working in the textile industry at Olympic Narrow Fabrics. From 1980 -1982 he worked as Plant Manager at Berd Fabrics before the plant left the area. In 1983 he learned a new trade as a concrete finisher and worked in this field until 1993 when he was declared legally blind due to glaucoma.
In 2002 Vernon went to the North Carolina Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in Raleigh. He then attended the Hadley School for the Blind in 2003, where he took a course in Psychology. In the years 2005 and 2012 he attended the Augusta Blind Rehabilitation Center for training. Vernon joined the VIST Program in 2005 and became a lifetime member of BVA in the same year. He has held every office in the Eastern Chapter except President and Secretary.
Director of District 4
Jhennicea (Jhenni) Morrow
,Central/Northern Regional Group, is a Vietnam Era U.S. Navy veteran, currently serving as the President of the Arizona - Central/Northern Regional Group (2015 - present). She is also volunteering as a VSO (Volunteer Service Officer), and as Director District Four of the Blinded Veterans Association. Her military experience included training as a Naval Communications Technician, and the lessons she learned has guided her in her daily life since becoming a veteran.
Jhennicea currently resides in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona with her husband (Air Force veteran), four children, and two very large friendly dogs.
After literally “bumping into” the Phoenix VIST coordinator, Jhennicea traveled to Tucson, Arizona for Mobility & Orientation Training at the Southwest Blind Rehabilitation Center. The following year, she returned to the center for Computer & Technology Training. Since returning home, she has focused on serving the blinded veteran community as President of the Regional Group. She trained in the Military / Veteran Network Program, and is also trained as well as functions as a Volunteer Field Service Officer. She participates in yearly 5K VisionWalk fundraisers to raise awareness and funds for retinal diseases. She also participates in Low Vision Support Group meetings, and communicates regularly with various agency and V.A. leaders regarding the needs of blinded veterans.
Jhennicea is a lifetime member of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Disabled American Veterans, and the American Legion. But she always says that, “Membership and service in the Blinded Veterans Association is my focus and my delight as I work to serve and honor fellow blinded veterans.”
Director of District 5
, Florida Regional Group, has served previously as the BVA National Treasurer, four years as a Florida Regional Group district director, two years as the group’s vice president, and three years as president.
A 30-year Navy veteran, Paul was born in Johnson City, New York. He moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1960 and joined the Navy in 1965 after graduating from Boca Ciega High School in Gulfport, Florida.
Paul began losing his vision subsequent to a severe viral infection and in 1987 was classified as legally blind. A true Navy Mustang, he served in enlisted Pay Grades E-1 through E-9 and Officer Ranks O-1 through O-5. Although legally blind, he remained competitive and in an active (fit-for-full-duty) status until he retired eight years later in November 1995.
Paul served as an Aviation Electronics Technician and as Aircrew with the Navy Hurricane Hunters out of Jacksonville, Florida. After receiving his officer’s commission while serving in Puerto Rico, he served onboard the USS Independence, the USS America, and on the USS Teddy Roosevelt as the Maintenance Officer of the F-4 and later with F-14 squadrons. His final command was as the Maintenance Officer of the Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department at Cecil Field in Florida.
After retiring from the Navy, Paul earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from Jones College in Jacksonville, Florida. He also holds Associates Degrees in Legal Studies (Paralegal/Legal Assistant) and Electronics Engineering Technologies from Jones. He finished his studies Summa Cum Laude as the college’s first visually impaired student. Upon completing college, he worked as a paralegal and legal research tech.
Paul designs and maintains Internet websites for blind, community- based organizations. He also serves on the Florida Veterans Council and has served for six years on the Florida Governor’s Rehabilitation Council for the Blind. He is a member of the state’s Legislative Vision Caucus and a member and past Vice President of the Clay County Chapter of the Florida Council of the Blind.
Paul and wife Maureen, a Jacksonville native, were married in 1968. They live in Middleburg, a small town outside Jacksonville. They have two grown children and six grandchildren. His son, Paul, Jr., recently completed 20 years of service in the Navy Reserve.
Director of District 6
Dr. Thomas Zampieri
, served three years of active duty as an Army Medic from 1972 to 1975. He retired as an Army Major from the National Guard after 22 years of service in August 2000, having worked as a military flight surgeon for 13 years.
Tom graduated from Hahnemann Medical University Physician Assistant Program in June 1978 and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from State University of New York. He received a Masters Degree in Political Science from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, in May 2003 and completed his Political Science Ph.D. with Lacrosse University in December 2005.
For 25 years, Tom worked in a variety of clinical settings as a Physician Assistant both in private practice, university medical centers, and for the Department Veterans Affairs in three different VA medical centers. He co-authored medical journal research articles and presented medical lectures nationally, including three national medical teleconferences. He served in various leadership roles and on various committees in the Physician Assistant field, resulting in extensive work on Capitol Hill over the years.
From 1988 to 1993, he was a member of the Federal Services Task Force in the American Academy of Physician Assistants. In May of 2000 he was honored as the Federal Physician Assistant of the year by the Academy.
Legally blind due to Retinitis Pigmentosa and medically retired from VA since 2001, Tom was serving as the secretary of the BVA Greater Houston Regional Group when he was hired to be the Director of Government Relations at BVA National Headquarters. He served in the position from April 25, 2005 until November 22, 2013. Known for his tenacity and passion in the position, Tom was instrumental in the growth of BVA’s Operation Peer Support and Project Gemini British Exchange initiatives.
Tom, his wife Ginger, and daughter Jazmin now reside in Pearland, Texas.
Immediate Past National President
The Reverend Robert “Dale” Stamper
, Spokane Inland Empire Regional Group, was part of a unit assigned in early 1968 to replace a bridge that had been destroyed by the North Vietnamese. As he scouted the area, he tripped a landmine. The explosion knocked out Dale’s right eye immediately. A small piece of shrapnel severely infected his left eye, which later had to be removed. Although the MASH unit to which he was transported saved his life, he also suffered multiple broken bones and required several surgeries.
A native of Atwater, California, Dale enlisted in the Army immediately after high school at age 18 and underwent basic training at Fort Ord in Monterey. He also completed three months of advanced training in engineering at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. After AIT Dale received orders for Vietnam; he was assigned to C Company 15th Engineers Battalion.
Dale’s military honors include the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with Device 1960, and Marksman (Rifle M-14). Following his recovery, he completed VA Vocational Rehabilitation and one year at San Jose State University. He transferred to Fresno State University, where he began a degree in psychology, and then to the Evangelical Christian College in Fresno, where he earned a B.A. in theology with an emphasis on counseling.
Dale is presently on staff at a large church in Post Falls, Idaho. His duties include preaching, teaching, counseling, and making hospital visits with the assistance of a secretary. He also volunteers as a mentor to many clergy who seek him out regularly for his wisdom and ability to guide others. Although he writes his notes in Braille for his own use, Dale also spends several hours a day on a computer so that he can forward Bible study sessions, notes taken at special meetings, and lesson plans to the sighted members of his Bible study group. He is now using his third computer system, having become proficient with JAWS.
Prior to his current staff position, Dale served as a minister for more than 30 years in small and large churches in less populated areas. He was a missionary in the Philippines during 1994-96. Regarding his blindness, Dale expresses the following: “I forget that I am blind and then also make others forget. Then they are surprised if I have to ask for help.”