Veterans Honored At 11-11-11 Events
Braving a cold and brisk Veterans Day wind at Arlington National Cemetery's National Veterans Day Observance, Sam Huhn and Tom Miller take their place in line among Veterans Service Organizations presenting wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Keeping the two in step is Michele Huhn. The ceremony was one of dozens of noteworthy 11-11-11 events throughout the country involving BVA members, their families, and special guests. The Bulletin's winter issue will report on events of the day in greater detail.
October Special Events Promote Public Awareness
Within the last decade, BVA regional groups and individual BVA members have sought new means and methods to reach out to their local communities to locate blind and visually impaired veterans who may not be aware of all of the services and opportunities available to them.
Other efforts from Metairie, Louisiana, to Phoenix, Arizona, to Boise, Idaho, focus on dispelling the myths about blindness, educating the public about white cane safety, legislative advocacy at the local level, and helping one another more effectively make use of assistive technology.
Some activity takes place even further to the south.
Joe Cooler, for example, a blinded veteran residing in the U.S. Virgin Islands, organized White Cane Safety Day events at the VA Clinic in the Barren Spot Village Mall on the island of St. Croix. BVA member Ulysses Fletcher also attended the October 13 event.
Virgin Islands blinded veteran Joe Cooler, right, discusses BVA membership literature and services with Islands Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. at VIUCEDD-sponsored disability awareness event last October.
In addition to the BVA promotional and informational materials he shared with visitors throughout the day, Joe also partnered with the Virgin Islands University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (VIUCEDD), of which he is a Board member, to demonstrate basic technological innovations— prescription bottle scanners, bar code readers, and magnifiers—that for many blinded veterans are now a part of their daily life.
Joe is also an Americans with Disabilities Act certified trainer.
Scholarship Funds Available For 2012-13 Academic Year
Beginning with the 2012-13 academic year, BVA will award seven total scholarships, six under the Kathern F. Gruber program umbrella for $2,000 each and one $1,000 scholarship through the newly established Thomas H. Miller program.
The new Miller program qualifications are the same as those for the Gruber awards except for an added emphasis on music and fine arts. The scholarship committee will choose seven recipients and three alternates.
Dependent children, grandchildren, and spouses of blinded veterans, and those of active duty blinded service members of the U.S. Armed Forces, are eligible for the scholarships. The veteran must be legally blind and the blindness may either be service connected or nonservice connected. The veteran need not be a member of the Blinded Veterans Association.
To be eligible for the scholarship, an applicant must have been accepted for admission, or already be enrolled, as a full-time student in an accredited institution of higher education or business, secretarial, or vocational training school.
The scholarships, now in their 29th year, are intended to defray a student's educational expenses, including tuition, books, and other academic fees. Scholarship payments will be made by BVA directly to the educational institution.
Applications for the scholarships may be obtained from the Blinded Veterans Association, 477 H Street NW, Washington, DC 20001.
Completed applications and supporting materials must be returned to BVA no later than Friday, April 20, 2012. Due to time constraints related to processing the applications for the scholarship committee's review, applications arriving subsequent to the aforementioned deadline will not be accepted.
The scholarships will be awarded on a "most-highly-qualified" basis utilizing the following criteria: answers to questions on the application form; transcripts of high school and/or college records; three letters of reference; and a 300-word essay relating to the applicant's career goals and aspirations.
Scholarships are awarded for one year only. Applicants are advised that the BVA National Board of Directors has determined that Gruber and Miller scholarship recipients are limited to a total of four scholarships during their college careers.
Check Your Mailing Label, Note Important Changes
BVA annual members, former members, and many nonmembers recently received a letter from the Association asking that they renew or join, according to Membership Director Alyson Alt. The letter also provided the new, higher membership rates to become effective January 1, 2012.
"Recipients of the current Bulletin should check the mailing label on the back cover of their copy," said Alyson. "There is an abbreviation on the top right corner that indicates membership status and an NM, NAM, FM, or FAM indicates that an individual is not an active member."
NAM and NM indicate that one has never joined while FM and FAM designations reveal the need to renew. Blinded veterans can become active members by contacting Alyson at 202-371-8880, Ext. 3315. She can process an application by VISA, MasterCard, or Discover over the telephone. If prospective members choose not to pay by credit card, Alyson can send an application with a self-addressed envelope. If a remittance only is sent, prospective embers should be sure to write "MEMBERSHIP" on the envelope and on the remittance.
"Blinded veterans may ask why they should join BVA or renew their membership," said Alyson. "The Blinded Veterans Association has worked very hard in its advocacy on behalf of our nation's blinded veterans and their families and, because of these efforts, blinded veterans across the country enjoy numerous special programs, services, and benefits."
As a thank you to their commitment to BVA, life members and associate life members will receive membership pins when they join for the first time or convert their annual membership to a life membership.
BVA members or nonmembers who do not wish to receive the print edition or audio version of the Bulletin, or have a change of address, should also contact Alyson. Membership applications in a text format, a Microsoft Word format, and as a PDF can all be accessed on the BVA website.
PA Blinded Vet Celebrates Century
BVA life member Louis P. Kuppless of the Pennsylvania Regional Group, a 2006 graduate of the Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Center at West Haven, turned 100 years old on September 14.
The blinded veterans support group at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center celebrated the occasion on September 8, showering Lou with tributes, plaques, cards, warm wishes, and a cake.
Attendees included friend and fellow regional group member Martin Lee, group president Wanda Grover, VIST Coordinator G.W. Stilwell, and VA Medical Center Director Joseph Dalpiaz.
Lou Kuppless was born in a mining camp in Landsburg, West Virginia. He was the fourth of nine children to parents who had emigrated from Holland. He spent most of his early years in western Pennsylvania but made his way to Philadelphia during the Great Depression looking for work, eventually taking several jobs.
Although unsuccessful at first in enlisting in the military in the early 1940s due to a standard he could not meet, his persistence paid off and he was accepted during World War II. He was assigned to the Air Corps Transport Ferrying Service as a flight engineer. After his discharge in 1946, Lou returned to his civilian job on the Railroad Express Agency as a Flight Supervisor. He retired in 1976.
Lou married his wife Joanne in 1948. They were married for 53 years until she passed away in 2001. The couple had one son and built their home in Huntingdon themselves, "brick by brick." Lou still lives in the home more than 60 years later.
"It may have something to do with my raw food diet," said Lou upon being asked his secret to long life. He also does considerable walking.
"BVA of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Support Group wish Lou a long and healthy life," said Martin Lee, speaking for both groups. "He has truly reached a milestone."
Arkansan Scores with Backyard Watermelon
Master gardener George Myers, loyal BVA member and President of the Arkansas Razorback Regional Group, grew a most improbable 117-pound watermelon this past summer. The monster fruit was subsequently entered in the Conway County Fair in the City of Morrilton and won both best showpiece and first place over Labor Day weekend.
"We had 30 straight days of temperatures over 100 degrees, one of which hit 115, and no rain," said George. "I kept my garden going by watering it every day from a well."
The mammoth melon in question also measured 50 inches around and 39 inches tip to tip.
"It was definitely the talk of the fair," he said. "The county never had one that size before."
Once all was said and done, George donated the specimen to the ladies of his local parish for their monthly meeting on September 7.
George attributes his gardening successes to the fact that none of it is new to him. Despite the vision loss, he has figured out ways to not only get it done but to achieve amazing results in the process.
"I grew up working in our home garden," he said. "That experience provides me with the sixth sense of what I need to do in most cases."
George begins his gardening each year in February when he sends in a soil sample to be checked. When the results come back, he adds the appropriate amount of lime, fertilizer, and compost. A neighbor then comes over with a chisel plow and turns the soil. When the time arrives to plant, he goes over the area with a small disk pulled behind his lawn mower. He takes white rope and marks off rows three feet apart, thereby making it possible to run a tiller down the middle of each row. He uses only a small garden planter with different plates to plant the seeds.
In addition to watermelon, George's garden typically features squash, okra, peppers, tomatoes, corn, peas, and cucumbers, all of which he enjoys sharing with his friends and neighbors.
With so much attention to his garden, one would think that's all George did. Wrong! In addition to his work with the BVA regional group, he is involved with local DAV and VFW groups, the Southeastern BRC Alumni, and the third and fourth degree Knights of Columbus. He also enjoys leather work, copper etching, and shooting rifles and pistols in his backyard.
"I get behind sometimes, but I catch up," he mused.
CBRC Alumni Reconnect
Former patients and their families traveled to Hines, Illinois, from as far away as New Mexico and Utah to connect with other veterans and staff at the Central Blind Rehabilitation Center's 13th alumni picnic on June 24.
The event celebrated both the center itself as well as the alumni that had been able to make the trip to attend. Activities included a series of games that involved sense of touch, feel, and sound; American history and Hines history; miniature golf; and a BVA meeting. Recognitions were distributed with good humor in the form of certificates for congeniality, overachievement, and proficiency in the game of "bags."
Jerry Schutter, left, with Leland Kent Wimmer, Western Mountaineer Regional Group, during Hines reunion June 24.
An additional highlight of the reunion was the food, which consisted of a barbecue theme. The meal was served by the blind center staff. Specific offerings were fried chicken, baked beans, corn on the cob, barbecued pulled pork sandwiches, potato salad, fresh watermelon, and assorted cookies. Leftovers were shared among the inpatients for the next few meals in order to spread additional camaraderie.
"Everyone enjoyed eating around picnic tables and sharing stories of their time spent at the blind center," said BRC Director Jerry Schutter. "We all talked about what it was like to learn new skills for the first time."
Southwest Blinded Vet Launches Disability Coalition
BVA member Terry Kebbel, New Mexico Regional Group, has launched the Disability Coalition from Southern New Mexico, including the coalition's own website at www.dcfsnm.org.
The mission of the coalition is to maintain an online communication network that advocates for all people with disabilities. It provides an outlet and a forum in which persons with disabilities can network with others with disabilities.
A logo designed by Terry himself contains four elements, in this case small stones, representing an area of disability: a white stone represents people with hearing disabilities, a black stone represents people with vision disabilities, a red stone represents people with mobility disabilities, and a blue stone represents those with cognitive/learning disabilities.
The coalition was launched with a float entry in the September 24 Whole Enchilada Fiesta Parade in Las Cruces. The float designers created four rockets to represent the four aforementioned groups. Rick Olson, a BVA member from Chicago, Illinois, and a friend of Terry's, marched in the parade with his dog Verna.
The parade project reflected a community effort that included representatives from the Las Cruces Americans with Disabilities Act Advisory Board, the New Mexico Commission for the Dear and Hard of Hearing, PUSH America, the National Federation of the Blind, the Las Cruces chapter of the Hearing Loss Association, and New Mexico State University.
Headquarters Mourns Annette Mongelli Passing
Although she retired six years ago, a majority of the BVA staff currently working at Headquarters personally knew and worked closely with Annette Mongelli, the Association's Conference Coordinator and Executive Assistant for 12 years. Many hundreds of BVA members met her at the conventions or other special events.
All were saddened to learn of her passing on October 28, which occurred from a severe lung condition. Annette was hired by Ron Miller, Tom Miller's predecessor, and she continued with Tom until 2005. Prior to Annette's employment at BVA, she worked for 12 years for AMVETS in a similar capacity. She is survived by her two sons, Micky and Andy, both of whom attended BVA conventions several times with Annette and her late husband Mike.
West Haven Alums Alerted for Mailings
Some blinded veteran graduates of the Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Center (EBRC) at West Haven, Connecticut, may not be on the current alumni mailing list, according to Tom Bove, alumni association President.
"The 2011 EBRC alumni reunion was one of the best ever with 2012 programmed to be even better," said Tom. "Get in the loop through the upcoming mailings we will be doing."
To be placed on the list, contact Tom Bove via snail mail at 40 Colonial Drive, Farmingdale, NY 11725, by phone at 516-293-0695, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.