Poem Celebrates EBRC Anniversary

by Neil Appleby

On July 16, I read and presented a framed copy of a poem that expresses my feelings for the Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Center at West Haven, Connecticut. The occasion was the 40th anniversary celebration of the Center, which included a facility open house, a formal presentation ceremony, and various social activities that included an outdoor outing.

Former Boston VA Medical Center VIST Coordinator and now poet, author, and publisher Mary McManus wrote the verse for me from input that I provided to her. In all of the years I have been associated with BVA, many blinded vets have expressed their gratitude for service received from blind rehab. I do believe, however, that an expression in this format is a first!

In Loving Gratitude on the 40th Anniversary Celebration of the Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Center

When the words were uttered, “you have RP and now you are legally blind,”
I thought my world would come to an end but there was help I would find.
For the past thirty years the EBRC has kept me productive and safe
To ensure that I'd have a great quality of life and no more skin would I chafe.

Nineteen years of employment in various jobs, independence was always the key.
Non-paid volunteer, veterans advocate was next-
You made sure no retirement for me.
The gratitude which swells from the depth of my heart – 
Is expressed in this tribute to you.
On this fortieth anniversary of when you opened your doors – 
Here's my thanks for all that you do.

I first entered the Center in '79 and for twelve weeks no way could I stay.
I was working full time, no problem said staff – 
Stay a month and you'll be on your way.
The low-vision staff knew just what to do- here's some prisms to add to your sight.
God bless Robert Perlin, OD, then the chief and all of his staff – they were right!

A VA computer – I was one of the first to try out this new kind of device. 
As technology advanced, I've had the top of the line 
To help make my work so precise.
Staff enlisted my help, I gave feedback to them before devices were issued to all.
We worked as a team to help all of the vets – no order too short or too tall.

Mobility classes are scheduled by day, but with RP I had special need.
A request for a nighttime mobility class was met with incredible speed.
Cataract surgery, a glib civilian doctor's reply, “double vision was better than none.”
Kara Gagnon, OD, the chief and her staff worked their magic so I'd see only one.

There are so many staff who have helped through the years 
I'd need a novel to write down each name
There should be a plaque – a tribute to you – 
Your own star in Blind Vets hall of fame.
You've been more than a staff, you're like family to me
You've shown such patience and care.
Dedication and talent, prompt service with heart – you're a staff extraordinaire.

For 53 years I've been losing my sight but you kept my world open wide.
I'm so grateful for EBRC's assistance and to have you right there by my side.
With a tip of my hat and a tap of my cane, I say thanks for all you've given to me.
With all of your help, equipment, support, I've overcome the challenge of RP.


In addition to his new appointment as Interim Director of District 3, Neil Appleby is a BVA Past National President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and leader in the Pennsylvania Regional Group.