July 26, 2011

Disability Doesn’t Mean Disabled: Two Role Models




     After becoming legally blind, Janice Greer worked for a time as a typesetter and later sewed costumes for her children’s high school plays, according to her daughter Aimee Coleman and son Thomas Greer. Although both will miss their mother, who died from cancer on April 12, 2011, they will cherish the memories of her being a role model.*

     Reading this Janice Greer’s obituary reminded me of two important people I’ve known on this journey called life.


     One result of my parent’s divorce was that I was separated from my father’s family. I didn’t meet my paternal aunt, Nyllis Gardner, until I was well into adulthood. When I met her, was wheelchair bound and bedridden, and her hands were grossly distorted from arthritis. Yet she managed to hand stitch Barbie doll clothes for her church bizarre. She also made needlework items on plastic canvas. 

Nyllis Gardner's hand-stitched Barbie Doll clothes

     Watching her work made me realize what a struggle it was for her to create the many items she donated to St. Paul’s Episcopalian Church in Brocton, Massachusetts. I feel fortunate that she gifted me with several items.


     Russ Roy became totally blind at age nineteen. An albino, he had been legally blind before the surgery that took away his little sight.

     In spite of wearing glass eyes Russ entertained many residents of the Jamestown, Pennsylvania, community with his extensive collection of poetry. He composed his works on a tape recorder (to read some of his works, click on links at end of this post).

     One day, after I moved to a new community, I returned to Jamestown. Russ had agreed to an all day critiquing session with the intent of creating a booklet of his poems. Several selected persons gathered at his brother’s kitchen table and went to work under my guidance.

     Most writers cringe during critiquing sessions. So it was with Russ. I could see the intense session was painful for him, but he endured, allowing me to create the booklet.


     During the time I did needlework I couldn’t imagine persevering at my projects if I were legally blind. Nor can I imagine how difficult and challenging it would be to write on a tape recorder rather than running my fingers over the computer keyboard.

     People like Janice Greer, Nyllis Gardner and Russ Roy didn’t let major handicaps stop them. They put me to shame when I whine about miniscule physical problems that I let interfere with my goals in life. Their modeling reminds me that I shouldn’t let these minor problems stop me.

     I imagine Janice Greer’s children felt fortunate that they had a role model in their life.     I am fortunate that my Aunt Nyllis and Russ Roy in my life entered my journey in life.


     Who are your role models and how have they enriched your life? I invite you to recognize them in the comment box below.


*Obituary Page: Greensburg Tribune-Review just after April 12, 2011




The Thanksgiving Baby  : Russ Roy

CAROLYN  : Russ Roy

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A Theological Perspective on Child Abuse

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