Foley Moved BVA Forward in 90s


Carl E. Foley, BVA Past National President and one of the Association’s most influential national leaders of the latter part of the 20th century, passed away January 15 after an extended illness.

The BVA National Board of Directors, staff, members, and friends of BVA nationwide are saddened to hear of his passing and express condolences to his family. Carl’s wife of 62 years, Arlene Foley, passed away just 16 days later.

A member of the O-K-I Regional Group, Carl was largely responsible for the formation of the group just prior to his election as National President in 1993 at the 48th National Convention in Tucson, Arizona. He first joined BVA in 1973 and served as Director of District 2 from 1976 to 1986.

Carl was known in BVA circles as a man of action who enjoyed innovation, be it new technology, organizational change, or simply trying something different. Friend and fellow regional group member Charles Kuhnwald credits Carl with initiating the Visual Impairment Service Team program at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center and bringing the national convention to Cincinnati a year into his national presidency in 1994.

National Convention Awards Banquet (1999) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Carl Foley (center, seated) with Past National President Dick Fazakerley (left) and National President Elect Bob Smith. Standing behind the three is Bob Malak, at the time Region IV Field Service Representative.
National Convention Awards Banquet (1999) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Carl Foley (center, seated) with Past National President Dick Fazakerley (left) and National President Elect Bob Smith. Standing behind the three is Bob Malak, at the time Region IV Field Service Representative.

Born in Middletown, Ohio, Carl spent most of his youth in Ohio before his family moved first to Detroit and then to Allen Park, Michigan, during his high school years.

Carl was a Korean War era veteran of the U.S. Air Force and spent much of his time stationed in Japan. Following his discharge from active duty for service-connected vision loss due to an infection of histoplasmosis leading to chorioretinitis, Carl earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Anderson University and a Master’s Degree from the University of Oregon.

Despite his vision loss, which was especially severe in one eye, Carl was able to teach algebra and calculus in Kettering, Ohio, in the early 1970s. Shortly after he lost vision in the second eye and therefore his central vision, Carl resigned from teaching and began selling a Closed-Circuit TV (CCTV) system to other visually impaired individuals. The CCTV, a novelty at that time, allowed him to read and write again. 

In 1986 he received a plaque from Visualtek, Inc. for $500,000 in sales. Despite his blindness, he also taught both of his children, Karla and Eric, to drive so that they could transport him to his sales appointments.

Carl worked his way up the BVA leadership chain after the ten years as District Director and a host of positions within his regional group, beginning as National Treasurer in 1987 and culminating as Immediate Past National President in 1997. He was also a member of the American Council of the Blind and founded the Council of Citizens with Low Vision for the Dayton, Ohio area.

Funeral services for Carl Foley were January 22 in Middletown, Ohio. They were followed by military services at Woodside Cemetery by the Middletown Combined Honor Guard.