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Grant Offered Gift of Self in Serving Fellow Vets
Former BVA Field Service Representative and devoted regional group officer Larry Grant passed away March 7 in Providence, Rhode Island.
Born in Providence on April 3, 1938, Larry was raised in Warwick, Rhode Island, and graduated from Warwick’s Veterans Memorial High School in 1957. He shortly thereafter enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was honorably discharged on July 20, 1961.
Larry received an Associate of Science degree in Business Administration in 1960 from Rhode Island Junior College during his Air Force tour of duty. Hewas employed for 25 years at Nortel Networks, Inc. in Warwick and later in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Nashville, Tennessee. He retired as a quality engineer, after which he served as the Region I Field Service Representative in Boston from 1988 to 1994 and as a longtime president of the Rhode Island/Southeastern Massachusetts Regional Group.
Larry was known for his warm heart, wide smile, and quick wit. While his highest priorities were family and fellow blinded veterans, he never cowered from getting involved in civic issues. Larry was instrumental in the installation of the audible “chirping sound” at the downtown Attleboro, Rhode Island, traffic signals to assist the visually impaired to safely cross the intersections while retaining their independence with dignity. He also vigorously challenged the U.S. Postal Service recently regarding its interpretation of “Free Matter for the Blind” mailing privileges.
“Larry was a high-energy, passionate, outspoken advocate for blinded veterans,” said Tom Miller. “He was an outstanding BVA employee and he worked tirelessly to file claims and help veterans adjust to vision loss.”
More significant, said Tom, was the work he did to strengthen his regional group following his second retirement, this time from BVA. “Larry continued to stay fired-up and committed, most notably in his work with the VIST Coordinator in Providence and in the many other things he did to strengthen his regional group.”
Larry is survived by his wife, Patricia, three children, and eight grandchildren. An online guest book to express condolences and offer remembrances may be found at www.duffy-poule.com.
Jack Stanton Joins
Harold “Jack” Stanton is the new BVA Field Service Representative for Region III, replacing Bill Murphy. Based in Decatur, Georgia, Jack is responsible for the area encompassed by Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The change was effective on December 3, 2007.
Most recently, Jack was a Veterans Representative for a State of Missouri case management program that provided education and career training assistance to veterans in the northeastern portion of the state. His responsibilities included outreach to businesses and community organizations regarding the program. He was named Missouri’s Veterans Representative of the Year in 2004 and was honored in both 2005 and 2006 in Washington, DC, with peer-nominated Outstanding Service to Veterans Awards.
In the early 1990s, Jack worked for VA in Des Moines, Iowa, as a case management worker for a homeless veterans program that focused on job development, living skills, drug and alcohol treatment, financial management, and veterans benefits programs.
He earned an Associates degree in Human Services/Human Resources from Des Moines Area Community College and a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Management from Hannibal LaGrange College in Hannibal, Missouri.
Jack was first diagnosed with severe chronic glaucoma in 1984 and became legally blind after two surgeries in 1991. He joined the organization shortly thereafter, having already been familiar with it through his Uncle George, a World War II veteran and a longtime member of the Iowa Regional Group.
Richard Hunter of the Northern California Regional Group qualified and trained for, participated in, and completed this year’s April 21 Boston Marathon.
Claiming to be physically built more like a football player than a marathoner and convinced that he’d be better off sticking to shorter distances, Richard’s performance proves that his heart, at least, is one of a marathon runner.
“Running brings me a sense of freedom and pride like nothing else,” he explained. Richard completed his first marathon in 2002 in 3:43:39 without a guide. This occurred before his vision began to deteriorate at an accelerated rate in 2005.
After leaving his career as a school psychologist, Richard searched for ways to continue to be a positive role model to his three daughters (now 11, 7, and almost 2). He kept busy doing volunteer work and set the ambitious goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. He successfully accomplished that feat last December when he completed the California International Marathon with a time of 3:18:49.
“It wasn’t until I crossed the finish line that I even knew I was physically capable of attaining such a difficult goal,” he said.
Richard completed the Boston Marathon in 3:46:30 on a course considerably more challenging than the other two he has run. He ran in Boston with four different volunteer guides, all of whom he says were very fit, very gracious, and very smart—a computer programmer for Harvard Medical School, a first-year medical student, an architect, and an engineer.
“Although I realized early in the race that there was no way I could even come close to matching my qualifying time, I was committed to running as fast as I could the entire time,” he said.
The commitment proved important as Richard faced a number of obstacles throughout the race: a soaring heart rate that never slowed, profuse perspiration, cramping in his toes and up his legs that began at the 16th mile, and the loss of ten pounds despite drinking fluids at every aid station.
Richard credits the Massachusetts Association for the Blind’s “Team with a Vision” for his ultimately successful marathon experience.
“They helped tremendously with logistical needs, made the contacts necessary for my running guides, arranged for me to go to a running club following the race, and were great cheerleaders,” he said.
The estimated number of spectators along the Marathon route this year was some 500,000. Overcome many times by the cheering screams and outstretched hands of encouragement, and then again at the awards ceremony by the presence of some of the most elite marathoners in the world from Kenya, Ethiopia, and Morocco, Richard’s most emotional moment came as he thought about the impact his finish had on his daughter, Lindsey.
“She told me on the phone that her first grade class gave her an ovation as the Boston Marathon website reported my finish,” he said. “She said she was so proud she had tears in her eyes, which is why I would do it all again in a second for this greatest prize ever.”
A handful of OIF service members who have previously participated in BVA’s Operation Peer Support initiative recently spent a week skiing, ice skating, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.
“Higher Ground,” the name given to the Sun Valley Adaptive Sports program for OIF/OEF service members who have lost their vision in the line of duty, was apparently a resounding success.
“During the time we’ve spent here, Chris has been more like his old self,” said Mary Paiser, wife of Army Sergeant Chris Paiser. “He’s been more lighthearted, self-confident, and so excited about being able to snowboard.”
Sergeant Chris Paiser, left and Captain Ivan Castro, both Operation Peer Support participants at the BVA 62nd National Convention, snowshoe their way up a slope in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Sun Valley Adaptive Sports President Tom Iselin said that the first week ever of the “Higher Ground” program was a unique and exciting one.
“The program is not only about building their physical skills and self-confidence but about developing courage and hope and a sense of purpose and new passion for life,” he said. “It’s about helping them handle the challenges of their disability, especially the combat-related stress that many of them still feel.”
Chris and Mary Paiser were joined in Sun Valley by Navy Chief Petty Officer John Crabtree and Marshell; Army Captain Ivan Castro and Evelyn Galvis; Sergeant Jason and Suzetta Waterhouse; and Specialist Casimir Werda.
|Florida Regional Group President Paul Kaminsky addresses what he called the “myths of blindness” before state legislators at the second annual Florida Vision Summit.|
Florida Regional Group President Paul Kaminsky represented BVA for the second consecutive year at a recent annual conference of Florida state legislators who have a special interest in the continually growing population of the blind and visually impaired in Florida.
Held January 8 in the Senate Chamber in Tallahassee, the 2008 Florida Vision Summit was co-hosted by the Vision Caucus of the Florida Legislature and the Florida Association of Agencies Serving the Blind, the latter of which includes the Florida Council of the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind of Florida, the BVA Florida Regional Group, and Florida Families of Children with Visual Impairments.
Paul participated in a 30-minute panel discussion with representatives of the other organizations. The panel’s theme was “Making Florida Accessible for the Visually Impaired.”
“I explained in my remarks that the only obstacles that stand in a blind person’s way are the myths and impediments placed there by an uninformed public,” said Paul. “With the use of a computer, screen-reading software, and special adaptive glasses, I was able to remain on active-duty status for the last nine years of my 30-year Navy career even while I was medically classified as legally blind.”
Paul also mentioned the success many blinded veterans experience following their training at residential BRCs throughout the country, inspiring them to “take their rightful place in the community” and fulfill their potential in making worthwhile contributions to society and their fellow citizens.
Never underestimate the creative abilities of BVA members in coming up with a new, unique way to advertise and promote the organization in their regional groups and chapters.
“My idea is designed to make people look good and draw attention to us so that onlookers will be compelled to ask: ‘Just who are these guys?,’” said Joe McNeil, Vice President of the Columbus Chapter of the Georgia Regional Group.
The idea, already implemented during the 2007 holiday season, is for each chapter member to wear what amounts to a uniform. The garb consists of a gold blazer, navy blue pants, a black beret, a shirt with tie for formal events, and a mock neck shirt for informal events.
“The uniform itself is obviously voluntary to the members but so far the idea has been well received and seems to be catching on even more,” said Joe. “The events our group now attends are proudly called gold jacket affairs!”
BVA Membership Manager Alyson Alt requests that Association members periodically check the laser-printed address label on the back of their print copies of the BVA Bulletin.
“It is critical to remember that individuals with an FM, FAM, NM, or NAM designation are not current active members of the Blinded Veterans Association,” she said. “An ‘F’, which means ‘Former Member’ or ‘Former Associate Member’, is shown for those who were once active members but who have allowed their membership to lapse while An ‘N’, or ‘Nonmember’ designation, identifies those who have never been active members.”
Alyson urges Former Members and Nonmembers to support present efforts to build on BVA’s rich, six-decade history of advocacy on behalf of blinded veterans. Numerous special programs, services, and benefits for blinded veterans would not exist without a strong, united voice from BVA in the past.
"These benefits must be protected and preserved not only for today’s blinded veterans but for those who follow,” she said. “The more members BVA has, the greater will be the strength of our voice and, logically, the greater the chance we have of being heard and empowered to help blinded veterans everywhere.”
As active BVA members, blinded veterans receive the cassette version of the Bulletin. Paid-in-full Life Members also receive a BVA membership pin.
“I sincerely hope that our Former Members and Nonmembers will seriously consider joining BVA or renewing their lapsed membership,” said Alyson. “I look forward to hearing from many of them soon.”
For more information about BVA membership, or to request a membership brochure, application, and self-addressed return envelope, contact Alyson at 202-371-8880, Ext. 3315 or at 800-669-7079. She can also be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Memberships with accompanying dues payments made over the telephone using VISA, MasterCard, or Discover will be processed the next business day.
Stepping out on a golf course in early April as part of a recreation/rehabilitation activity of the Southwestern Blind Rehabilitation Center in Tucson, 85-year-old World War II blinded veteran and BVA member Robert Dunham just hoped he could make contact with the ball. He didn’t expect to hit it the way he had over a 20-year span of playing golf as a sighted person.
Imagine then his surprise when, on the Par 3 third hole, he drove the ball onto the green and into the hole on his first shot. Although the feat was accomplished after an assigned golf body had lined up the ball and suggested the appropriate club, Robert swung through the ball by himself, hitting it squarely. The ball landed softly on the green, bouncing once before rolling straight into the bottom of the cup to an eruption of cheers and high-fives among the group.
“I thought they were kidding me,” Robert told reporters later. “I told them that they had better not be pulling my leg.”
Robert is a retired Honeywell manager who began losing his vision to macular degeneration some ten years ago. He was in the fourth week of his stay at the BRC when the improbable ace occurred.