BVA Mourns Loss of Two Stalwarts

Schloss Remembered as Trailblazer for Disabled

 

Irvin P. Schloss, perhaps best known for his mid-20th century legislative advocacy and passion on behalf of the blind, passed away September 28 at his home in Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania, He was 83.


Greeting and interacting with public figures like J. Edgar Hoover (right) was not unusual for Irv Schloss, who spent some 39 years of his career in the Nation’s Capital. Standing next to the two is BVA Executive Director Lloyd Greenwood. On this occasion in the summer of 1949, Hoover extended an invitation to all blinded veterans to visit the FBI during the week of the BVA 4th National Convention, held in Washington a few weeks later.
Greeting and interacting with public figures like J. Edgar Hoover (right) was not unusual for Irv Schloss, who spent some 39 years of his career in the Nation’s Capital.
Standing next to the two is BVA Executive Director Lloyd Greenwood. On this occasion in the summer of 1949, Hoover extended an invitation to all blinded veterans to visit the FBI during the week of the BVA 4th National Convention, held in Washington a few weeks later.


Based on contents of BVA Bulletin issues dating as far back as the late 1940s, Irv was a major player in BVA’s early history and leaves behind a legacy of having helped the organization gain national recognition and respect during its most formative years.

Irv was born in Baltimore to parents who had migrated from Czarist Russia in 1905. He grew up with an avid interest in insects, leading him to pursue a college major in entomology. He graduated from the University of Maryland at age 20, having belonged to two honorary fraternities.

With the battles of World War II raging, Irv joined the Army shortly after his graduation in 1943, serving as a cannoneer in the 14th Armored Division when his tank was struck by a German missile in January 1945. Irv was blinded by metal fragments and sent to Valley Forge General Hospital, where he received prosthetic eyes, mobility training using a long, metal cane, and typing/Braille training. After a brief stay at Avon Old Farms, he was discharged from the Army in October 1945 and returned home to Baltimore.

When BVA moved its headquarters from New York to the Nation’s Capital in 1948, Irv was hired as the editor of the BVA Bulletin, a position he held for the next five years. The first BVA regional group was formed in Baltimore, with Irv acting as Chairman. He was married to Estelle Braddock in 1950, and the couple immediately moved to Washington, DC. In 1953, Irv became BVA’s Executive Director, a position he held for another five years.

While working as the Bulletin editor, Irv came up with a fictionalized character named Blinkie. The character had a regular column in each issue, addressing such topics as Capitol Hill legislation affecting blinded veterans, social fads, and other current events of the late 1940s. Blinkie was an entertaining but cynical personality who frequently provided advice in the columns. Each one began with “Dear Boss” and ended with the name “Blinkie” at the end. “Boss” was the average Bulletin reader.

Despite the frequency of the Blinkie columns and Irv’s established role as the publication’s editor, Irv never made it public that he was actually Blinkie until shortly after Dr. Robert Bottenberg of the South Texas Regional Group referred to Blinkie in his Father Carroll Memorial Luncheon speech at the 57th National Convention in 2002. Dr. Bottenberg asserted in his speech that Blinkie’s identity was still a mystery. A few months later, then National Vice President Neil Appleby attended an event honoring Irv in which Neil was able to obtain the needed confession from Irv that he had indeed authored the Blinkie columns himself. 

“Irv, along with Melvin J. Maas, greatly enchanced BVA’s prestige when they successfully secured BVA’s Congressional Charter in 1958,” wrote Raymond T. Frey, BVA’s first National President. “Because the 85th Congress chartered BVA as its official representative on behalf of blinded veterans, we are honored to submit testimony before Congress each year on the special needs and status of blinded veterans.”

Irv left BVA in 1958 to become the Director of Governmental Relations at the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). As such, he was a pioneer advocate for human service programs and education/rehabilitation of the disabled population as a whole at a time when there were few advocates for this group on Capitol Hill.

Irv was also involved at AFB with legislation relating to social security and tax issues affecting nonprofit organizations. He was often at the White House, interacting with Presidents Truman, Nixon, Johnson, and Carter, and rode in President Kennedy’s funeral cortege. He worked closely with Representative John Fogarty of Rhode Island and Senators Lister Hill of Alabama, Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, Jacob Javits of New York, and Jennings Randolph of West Virginia, all of whom championed legislation for the disabled.

According to Carl Augusto, AFB’s current Executive Director, Irv led the way to getting two pieces of legislation passed that had a strong impact on the blind and disabled. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 upgraded the rehabilitation services offered to the blind and other disabled by increasing their participation in policy and program development.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, passed in 1975, provides grant money to local school districts to serve disabled children. Before that time, said Augusto, few school systems were educating blind children.

Despite his professional position and career at AFB, Irv never forgot BVA. He served as the Association’s National Vice President from 1962 to 1966 and was the National President during 1967-68. In 1977 Irv was presented with the Major General Melvin J. Maas Award for Professional Achievement at the BVA 32nd National Convention in Washington, DC.

In 2003, as a tribute to Irv, AFB created the Irvin Schloss Advocacy Award to recognize excellence in advocacy on behalf of individuals who are blind or visually impaired. The following year AFB awarded him the Migel Medal, the highest honor in the field of blindness.

“Although I am a contemporary of Irv’s, I was not as involved with BVA during the times he was most involved in leadership capacities,” said Dr. Bottenberg. “The one thing that does stand out about him and Estelle, and particularly Estelle, is how elegant they were in dress and manners.” 

Irv is survived by Estelle, three nephews, and several great nieces and nephews. Tom Miller, Neil Appleby, and Stuart Nelson represented BVA at a military funeral for Irv on October 30 at Arlington National Cemetery.

Hyde Guided BVA Through Challenges

 

James F.C. Hyde, a former BVA National President, Treasurer, and District Director who helped lead the organization through economically challenging times, passed away last July 23 in Washington, DC, at age 87.

Jim was elected National President on July 17, 1965 at the 20th National Convention in New York City. Serving with him as National Officers at the time were the aforementioned Irv Schloss of Washington, DC, as Vice President; Simon Gerbush of Brooklyn, New York, as Secretary; and Kenneth Clark of Miami, Florida, as Treasurer.

A lawyer by profession, Jim also worked in the White House for 28 years under six U.S. Presidents as a member of the staff of the Bureau of the Budget, later renamed the Office of Management and Budget.

Always known to his friends as Jim, he was the son of a Brigadier General who served in the Pacific during World War II. Hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps, Jim graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1942 and became an artillery battery commander in Italy just one year later, serving with elements of the Third Division’s artillery unit.

Landing at Anzio Beach on January 22, 1944, Jim made his way inland for about a half-mile, evaluating gun positions identified on photomaps. When he returned to the beach, he walked beside a Lieutenant who was carrying a grenade when the device went off, killing the Lieutenant and another soldier. The explosion destroyed Jim’s left eye and took most of the sight from his right eye. Although one of his legs was also badly injured and almost severed, Jim eventually regained use of the leg. He was retired from the Army in 1944 as a Major.

After a long recovery period, Jim was accepted at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, graduating 11th in his class in 1949. Five months later, he began working out of a spacious office in Harry Truman’s White House, where he would remain through the end of President Gerald Ford’s Administration 28 years later.

During his tenure as BVA National President, Jim emphasized the need for an effective Field Service Program that could only be achieved through abundant financial and human resources.

“My twin goals center around money and members, that is, more of both,” he wrote. “But these are not true goals in and of themselves since they are just means to something more lofty to which BVA is committed.”

Jim laid the groundwork for the present Field Service Program with comments like that contained in the following paragraph and extracted from the September-October 1965 Bulletin. He was instrumental in the development of a fund raising initiative known as the Melvin J. Maas Memorial Rehabilitation Fund.

He wrote: “Money is the key to an effective national field program by which truly meaningful assistance can be rendered to blinded veterans and, through them, to the blind in general. So far we have not been able to muster the financial resources necessary to establish and operate such a program on a permanent basis. This situation demands correction, for without the program and the help it is designed to provide, BVA is simply not rendering the service that is the primary justification for its continued existence.”

Jim Hyde and his wife of 54 years, the former Enid Griswold, were the parents of two sons and a daughter.

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