Editor's Note: Paul Miller is a social working student senior at The Ohio State University Mansfield. June is Elder Empowerment Month in Ashland County and today marks the second in a four-part series he has authored to salute senior citizens and their accomplishments in the community. This series is part of Richland Source's Gray Matters project.
John was born in 1942 in Ashland. At around age 8 he started to go blind because of a retinal disease and reported that he drove until he was 17 or 18 years old. Even his classmates did not know of his sight issues.
He has not let this condition hold him back. John worked at a pipe-fitting factory until 1982 and in the past has been involved in Boy Scouts and church camp.
He joined Cub Scouts as an 8-year-old and earned his wolf, bear, lions (currently called Webelos) and arrow of light ranks.
From there he moved on to Boy Scouts and eventually get involved in more of the leadership aspect of organization. He was a camping activities director and cooked meals at Camp Avery for over 200 people. He was involved in the Johnny Appleseed Council and has been in scouts a total of 53 years.
He has been involved in a local church for over 25 years. John also enjoys woodworking and has repaired different types of machines including small engines
John has been through eight service dogs and reported that all of them were extremely smart, especially the last one. He helped train them by walking to a place such as Hardee’s. Before they left the house, he would say “Let’s go to Hardee’s” and the dogs would learn the route and the pair would arrive safely. Over time, the dogs would eventually recognize names of different places and would lead him there.
He said it takes time for both parents and their children to adapt to a disability. Not only do parents need to take time to help their kids with a disability; the children also need time in order learn to cope living with the disability. Both parties need to take time to figure out strategies to overcome difficult situations.
“Let people live the way they want to live,” he said of advice to those in such situations.
People with visual impairments have a difficult time finding something that was not put back exactly where it was.
“Don’t let disabilities hinder you," John said. "Don’t get disgusted and say that you cannot do it, because you can.”
He emphasized the point by noting he used a cable to assist with a push mower while mowing the grass for a local church.
"Learn by doing," he said. "This is the only way that you will be able to overcome challenging situations."
To find out more about elder empowerment month and activities, contact the Ashland County Council on Aging at 419-281-1477.
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