One Can Make A Difference 

by Neil Appleby, Past BVA National President

NBC has a weekly news segment, Making a Difference,profiling persons who make a difference. In August 2008, within the short span of three weeks, BVA lost a trio of leaders who, in their own right, made a difference. Their lives and contributions were summarized in the past issue of our Bulletin but a few additional comments of a personal nature are yet in order.

Sid Ordway was a U.S. Special Forces officer who was blinded by a shot to the head, in combat, in Vietnam. After a period of rehabilitation, he went on to earn a Jurist Doctorate and became a practicing lawyer. He later earned a second Doctorate in Political Science. He became active in BVA’s South Texas Regional Group, eventually serving as President. His outstanding leadership qualities are evident today as the South Texas Regional Group remains one of the strongest within BVA. Sid served with distinction on the National Board of Directors as Treasurer, Secretary and Vice President, a total of five years. He had five more years of Board service facing him when he passed away. We can only imagine how eloquently and how “lawyerly” he would have testified on our behalf before Congress.

Our General, General Weeks, was a sailor!  He served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. We have learned, anecdotally, the difference this man, with the unique given name, made upon his shipmates. We also know, firsthand, that this quiet-spoken southern gentleman made a difference in his community. During his working years, General’s contributions to mankind were recognized within his adopted State of Massachusetts.

General was blinded by disease. Upon retirement from his civilian career, he stepped into leadership positions within his regional group. When elected to become Director of District 1, he recognized the need to train leaders within the various regional groups. As a member of the BVA Board of Directors, he accepted the awesome responsibility of providing leadership training throughout the country. General was the best known member of BVA. He may be one of the best known in the organization’s history. He touched all of our lives.

Hank Bloomberg was an Army veteran of the Korean War. He worked as a diesel mechanic. He was blinded by disease and lost his government-issued, heavy-duty, truck inspection license. After a period of retraining he earned a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling. For a time, he worked as a BVA Field Service Officer in the northeast. He retired as a rehab counselor for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As he traveled the northwest quadrant of the state, caring for his civilian clients, he identified veterans who were eligible for VA blind rehabilitation. Concurrently, he served a total of ten years as President of BVA of Pennsylvania. He twice received the Pennsylvania Commendation Medal from the Governor. He founded and led a chapter of the American Council of the Blind in north central Pennsylvania.

General’s former VIST Coordinator, Mary McManus, wrote a beautiful poem about General that was presented at his funeral service and printed in our previous Bulletin issue. Kenneth Bass, a client and friend of Hank’s, has penned a similarly moving verse as a tribute to him:

A Diesel Truck Mechanic
During the Korean War,
Hank saw to it, those diesels ran for sure.
Yet his success continued
After loss of his eyesight,
Hank Bloomberg went right on
To keep up with the fight.
From Bowling Green University,
He graduated with a 
Rehabilitation Counseling Degree
And made a difference in the lives
Of people with low vision, 
Those people included me.
I knew this man and I can say,
His advice helped me find my way.
Hank was awarded a medal and citation
For all to show their appreciation.
I want to follow the example that Hank set
Because I am a visually impaired vet.
I’ll remember Hank Bloomberg
For his support and inspiration 
To the Blinded Veterans Association.

Sid, General, and Hank have now left us. They have, ironically, left us with both a leadership legacy and a leadership void at the same time. There may never be, nor perhaps can there be, anyone such as they in our BVA ranks. Nevertheless, who among us will step up to do at least a few of the things they did? Impossible as it may seem, we must all attempt to emulate their examples, serving others in the same manner they sacrificed for all of us.