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Spring 2011 Bulletin

Updated: Aug 4, 2020



Published by


Web Site:

Affiliate of the American Council of the Blind

Robert Spangler, President

1505 W. 4th St.

Vinton, IA 52349

(319) 472-4843


Mike Hoenig, Editor

3119 Spring St.

Davenport, IA 52807



Jo Ann Slayton, Secretary

4013 30th St.

Des Moines, IA 50310

(515) 279-4284 – home

(515) 710-7875 – cell


Ruth E. Hamdorf, Treasurer

439 Lindale Drive, #218

Marion, IA 52302

(319) 373-8608 – Home



Robert Spangler, President - Vinton, (319) 472-4843

Donna Seliger, Immediate Past President - Des Moines,

(515) 284-0505

Creig Slayton, First Vice President – Des Moines, (515) 279-4284

Mike Hoenig, Second Vice-President - Davenport, (563) 344-8787

Jo Ann Slayton, Secretary - Des Moines, (515) 279-4284

Ruth Hamdorf, Treasurer - Marion, (319) 373-8608

Joyce Davis, Director - Fort Dodge, (515) 955-1634

Rose Stratton, Director - Maquoketa, (563) 652-2546

Shirley Wiggins, Director - Cedar Rapids, (319) 550-6096

Stephanie Hunolt, Director – Kirksville, (660) 665-2404

Elsie Monthei, Director –Des Moines, (515) 277-0442

Gary Patterson, Director –Des Moines, (515) 278-2686

Dove Tanner, Director – Cedar Rapids, (319) 364-7128

Frank Strong, Director –Des Moines, (515) 285-7254


Anyone who cannot read this print bulletin, finds it difficult to have it read or wishes an e-mail or cassette may receive a copy at no charge. Please contact Jo Slayton at (515) 279-4284 to request an alternative format. Cassette readers are always invited to keep their copy of the Bulletin. However, if you would like to return cassettes when you are finished with them, please place in a NEW standard mailing envelope, write “Free Matter For the Blind” in the upper right hand corner, and return to the editor using the address on the front of this Bulletin. Also, please remember to contact the editor if your address changes. The Post Office rarely provides us with a new address when someone moves. We want to make sure that anyone who wants to receive a Bulletin gets one!


If you or a friend would like to remember the Iowa Council of the United Blind in your will, you may do so by using the following language: “I grant, devise, or bequeath unto the Iowa Council of the United Blind, a non-profit charitable organization, the sum of ______ dollars, ____ percent of my net estate, or the following stocks and bonds (please list them) to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons.” If your wishes are more complex, you may have your attorney call (515) 279-4284, or write Iowa Council of the United Blind, 4013 30TH Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50310.


Are you trying to decide how to dispose of a used vehicle? ICUB's Used Vehicle Donation Program offers the perfect solution. Your vehicle will be picked up from your home and sold at auction, with a portion of the proceeds going directly to ICUB. You claim a tax deduction equal to the dollar value of the vehicle. To donate or to learn more, call 800-899-4925.


Editor's Line 3

2011 ICUB Resolutions 6

History of Blindness in Iowa 6

Eye-Opening Experience 8

Review of New Logan Braille Coach 10

In Memoriam

Dave Scurr 11

Terry Hayes Sales 12

Priscilla McKinley 13

Ruth Ball 15

George Shearing, "Lullaby of Birdland" 16

Jazz Virtuoso, Dies at 91

BRL Books 20

Long-Time NLS Director Retires 21

Cedar Rapids Chapter Update 22

Dubuque Association of the Blind Update 22

How Do You Spell It 22

Recipe Corner 23


By Mike Hoenig

Spring is in the air! That means it's time to make plans for the 2011 ICUB State Convention.

Dates for this year's convention are May 20, 21 and 22. Our convention home is the Holiday Inn Northwest, 4800 Merle Hay Road, Des Moines. Room rates are $79, single through quad. Make your reservation today by calling the Holiday Inn at 515-278-4755. You will need to indicate that you are with ICUB in order to take advantage of this very special rate.

You should have received, or soon be receiving, your convention pre-registration packet. We think you'll be pleased with this year's food choices. Luncheon options include a pulled pork sandwich or a vegetarian Mediterranean wrap, both accompanied by coleslaw and house made potato chips. The pot roast so popular at the 2009 banquet is back, along with a pasta primavera with asiago cheese. I don't know about you, but I'm going to see if they'll let me order both! Full convention registration, including both meals, is $50. Individual luncheon tickets may be purchased for $20, while banquet tickets cost $25. WE HIGHLY ENCOURAGE you to pre-register, especially if you plan to join us for meal functions. The hotel requires us to provide a final, guaranteed number of meals on the Wednesday prior to convention. We will likely not be able to honor meal requests after that date.

Registration will begin at 3 PM on Friday. At 7, you'll get the chance to show off your musical knowledge in what's sure to be a fun game of "Name That Tune." You'll want to stay for Friday night's Opening Session, which will feature an ACB update from First Vice-President Kim Charlson. Wind down afterward at Hospitality, hosted again this year by Arlo and Elsie Monthei.

Do you want to learn more about health care reform and understand how it might affect you? Learn how to do low impact exercises and participate in a line dance? Check out the new IRIS digital receiver? Tell fellow conventioneers about your favorite gadget and learn about theirs? Then you won't want to miss Saturday's program. Many of you have told us that you'd like more time to visit the exhibit hall, and we've listened. The program will recess at 11, giving you an hour to explore the hall or just take a break. This year's exhibitors include: Allied Technologies, featuring low vision products such as CCTV's, magnifiers, and computer information access; Low Vision Helpers, another provider of low vision equipment; BRL books, a company which transcribes children's books into braille, and Envision America, offering products which provide access to encoded food, medical and pharmaceutical information. Your tour through the exhibit hall is sure to help you work up an appetite for the delicious luncheon, where you'll have time to visit with friends and meet this year's Brailler Award winner, a kindergartner from Truro. Recognizing that some of you are unable to stay until Sunday, we've asked President Spangler to kick off the afternoon session with a brief ICUB status report. Elections and the balance of Saturday's program will follow.

The no-host social hour will begin at 6, followed by the banquet at 7. This banquet will be a first for ICUB in that it will feature "dueling emcees." Catherine and Jim Witte will no doubt keep us on our toes with their--dare I say it--witticisms. Other banquet highlights will include a keynote by ACB First Vice-President Kim Charlson, presentation of the Linda Dietrich Volunteer Award, and of course those nut cups (let's hope for M&M's this year) ably assembled by Rose Stratton and Jo Slayton.

We will begin Sunday with our traditional memorial service, honoring those who have passed since last convention. Shirley does such a good job of helping us to remember those who have gone before us and to celebrate their lives. Please make it a point to come. Our business meeting will immediately follow. We hope that you will arrange your schedule such that you can stay. This is our one chance during the year to come together as a group to discuss issues of importance and to revitalize ICUB. It is an excellent time for you to volunteer for a committee, or even suggest a new one! Thanks to the Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, Des Moines and Cedar Valley chapters, we will once again draw for a $100 door prize as the final order of business. You must be present to win.

On February 12, Gary Patterson, Jo Slayton and I scored tests for the Iowa Braille Challenge. Sixteen students from grades k-8 participated in this year's event. Though we spent most of the day behind the scenes, we delighted in seeing students interacting with their peers. One remarked, "I'm not ready to leave!"

It is always instructive to visit agencies serving the blind and visually impaired in other parts of the country. While on a recent trip to Sarasota, I stopped at their Lighthouse for the Blind. Near the end of my visit, I was given an annual report. When I asked for a Braille copy, the agency's service coordinator said: "We don't have much Braille around here." It made me appreciate all over again Iowa's commitment to "the dots."

We've all experienced times in our lives which require us to make a choice that we would prefer not to make. I am at such a point right now. After a great deal of thought, I have decided that the time has come for me to resign as Bulletin editor. I have taken on some new responsibilities with our local jazz society, and have come to the realization that I need to take some time for my own personal growth. It has truly been an honor to share information of interest and to "talk to you" every three months during my time as editor. I have appreciated the many compliments and words of encouragement, and hope that you will bestow similar praise on our new editor. Be assured that our Board of Directors considers the Bulletin to be an important part of ICUB's work, and will make the naming of the new editor a top priority.

Look forward to seeing you at convention!


By Creig Slayton, Resolutions Committee Chair

The 2011 ICUB Resolutions Committee is ready to receive proposed resolutions. For several years, the committee has tried to develop resolutions prior to the convention. We have found that we can develop better resolutions if we have time to study the situation and do the writing prior to the convention. If you are interested in helping us develop appropriate resolutions, please submit drafts to Creig Slayton using the following address: Creig Slayton, 4013 30th St., Des Moines, IA 50310

Email:, PHONE: (515) 279-4284.

Please submit drafts or ideas prior to May 1.


Submitted by Shan Sasser, Iowa Department for the Blind

Share Your Story!

The Iowa Department for the Blind is interested in your memories, recollections, or experiences living as a blind person in Iowa. We are interested in hearing about your work life, home life, community activities, and more. Any length and topic is acceptable. All submitted information will be made part of a History of Blindness in Iowa collection.

The purpose of this project is to collect the life stories and experiences of Iowans who are blind, deaf-blind, or visually impaired and to archive this material for current and future research. These accounts will provide authentic, first-person narratives documenting the effects of blindness on the day to day lives of blind, deaf-blind, and visually impaired Iowans, their families and communities. It may also provide insight into the societal changes affecting blind people in terms of employment, education, family, and community life over the past 85 years. Because Iowa was a focal point for a civil rights movement for blind Americans during the 1960s and 1970s, the project will also capture the experiences of individuals involved in this movement and the effects this movement had on the lives of all blind or visually impaired Iowans.

What Should I Share?

Any topic related to your or a family member's blindness that is important to you is welcome. If you need some suggestions, tell us about:

* Your first or most memorable job experience.

* Your educational experience at primary, secondary, post-secondary, or vocational school.

* Your experience at the Orientation Center.

* Methods you have used to access print materials over the years.

* Travels outside of Iowa.

* Your experience with the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

* Your previous or current legislative or advocacy activities.

* Your previous or current community or volunteer activities.

* Assistive technological devices you have adopted over the years.

No story is too ordinary. You do not have to recount a funny, sad, or outrageous story, although those are welcome! Your story is unique and reveals instances of everyday life. Help us construct a full account of life in Iowa for Iowans who are blind, deaf-blind, or visually impaired by contributing to our collection.

How Do I Submit My Story?

You can submit your stories by e-mail or by regular mail in audio, print, or Braille. or Oral History Project, Attn: Shan Sasser, Iowa Department for the Blind, 524 Fourth Street, Des Moines, IA 50309

You can also record a story to a voice mail box at: 877-742-4938. You have five minutes of recording time to tell your story with this method.

With any story you submit, please provide your name and contact information.

Important! All stories submitted to this project will become a part of a History of Blindness collection owned by the Iowa Department for the Blind. By submitting your story, you are acknowledging that your story is a gift, which transfers to the Iowa Department for the Blind all legal title and all literary property rights. You will be granting to the Iowa Department for the Blind an unrestricted license to use your recording, and all the information which it contains, in any manner the Department for the Blind may wish to use it, for as long as the Iowa Department for the Blind wishes to use it.

Sponsors: This project is supported in part by the State Historical Society of Iowa, Historical Resource Development Program and the Friends of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.


(Reprinted from The Sioux City Journal, September 11, 2010.)

Kingsley, Iowa—If your gun goes haywire around Kingsley, the man you see to fix it is legally blind.

Meet Bob Farmer, a 47-year-old who suffers from retinitis Pigmentosa. He can’t drive a car. His peripheral vision is weak, getting weaker.

But he knows his way around a rifle. He hosted a grand opening Saturday for The Shooting Shop, his gunsmith business at 221 Burlington St. Going blind helped him see the light.

“I’ve always had retinitis Pigmentosa, but it wasn’t diagnosed until 2004,” said Farmer. “I always had eye problems, but I didn’t know what. I had trouble with light, night vision and colors, and I always knew someone could sneak up on me pretty easily.”

He was able to see straight ahead clearly, however. He loved to hunt and earned marks for marksmanship during his four-year stint in the U.S. Air Force.

It wasn’t until he went to an eye doctor for a consultation on LASIC surgery that the condition became known. “I was sent to Iowa City and the doctors there discovered I didn’t even fall within the vision guidelines set by the Iowa DOT (Department of Transportation) for a driver’s license,” he said.

He appealed after losing his license and did get it back for a few years. He lost it for good last July when he failed his annual exam.

Farmer also lost his job at a manufacturing facility. That’s when David Lenz of the Iowa Department for the Blind stepped in to offer assistance. Lenz asked Farmer what he wanted to do with his life.

“What can I do?” Farmer responded. “I don’t have any options.”

Farmer remembers Lenz’s response. “He said to me, ‘Like hell you don’t have any options. You can do anything you want.’”

Farmer wanted to be a gunsmith. Dennis Bogenrief, a vocational rehabilitation counselor with Iowa Workforce Development, helped Farmer create a business plan. They sent 5,000 surveys to Siouxland hunters and found the gunsmith profession was under-represented.

Farmer took additional training and can now repair firearms, adjust triggers and firing systems and do all sorts of trouble-shooting. He can also hot-blue a gun when the bluing wears off.

He operates a small retail outlet, featuring hunting and shooting supplies. Farmer has his federal firearms license and can custom-build ammunition.

“I’m very excited about this,” he said. “I never imagined I could do this. It’s a dream come true.”

Gene Shultz, an engraver from Westfield, Iowa, stopped by Friday to check on Farmer at his shop. Schultz, the director of Veterans Affairs for Plymouth County, sounded as excited for Farmer as the business owner himself.

“It’s good he’s not waiting around, just seeing if someone will come help him,” Shultz said. “He’s got a goal and he’s trying to make it happen.”


By Steven Famiglietti

(Reprinted from The Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind,

March 14, 2011.)

A few times in my life I've seen technology that I think is really innovative and wonderful, and at the same time, the people who invent the technology feel passionate about what they have invented.

A few weeks ago someone from Proxtalker came to the NEAT Center in Hartford to demonstrate their new Logan Braille Coach. This device was invented to assist people in learning to read Braille and offers many interesting and unique features. The device is small and light weight, making it very portable. It is rectangle in shape and has a magnetic strip running from left to right horizontally across itself. It comes with small rectangular strips that look like flash cards with each card containing a letter Brailed on the card. When you place the card on the magnetic strip, the device will announce the letter and you can make the device tell you the word contraction for the Braille letter as well. The Braille Coach also allows you to record a spoken message for each card. This is great for sighted teachers who are learning to read Braille and can serve as a great learning tool for both teachers and students as they work together.

Personally, I see this device selling to a wide ranging audience. When I began to learn Braille, I was 27 years old. I had already learned to read print as a child and the idea of reading Braille was

exciting, but I didn't want to put all of the time into learning it to the best of my ability. I was taught by using the textbook with the teacher. I found the books to be boring and it made it difficult to practice while the teacher was gone. I was lucky enough to have a teacher who came up with great ways to keep me motivated, but a device like this would have made the process a lot more interesting and I'm sure I would have done a better job learning to read Braille.

Proxtalker will be exhibiting the Logan Braille Coach at the CSUN convention in San Diego, CA from March 16 to 19, 2011. Here is a link to their website, which contains more information about the device:


Dave Scurr

David John Scurr, 63, of Coralville died at Hernando-Pasco Hospice in Inverness, Florida on Monday, November 29, 2010. A Memorial Service will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, December 4 at Lensing Funeral Home, 605 Kirkwood Avenue in Iowa City. Following the memorial service, the family will be receiving friends and celebrating Dave's life at the Kirkwood Room in Iowa City, 515 Kirkwood Avenue (building adjacent to Lensing Funeral Home). A private graveside service will be held at Aspen Grove Cemetery in Burlington, with full military honors, at a later date. In lieu of flowers, a memorial has been established for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

Born on July 26, 1947 in Oskaloosa, Iowa, he was the son of Dr. Howard and Catherine (Sutter) Scurr. He married Sharyn Hammje on April 10, 1966 with whom he had two daughters, Shannon Oetken (Matt) of Middletown and Samantha Cohen (Adam) of Memphis, TN. On December 8, 1984, he married Julia Ann Patterson with whom he adopted two Pug "daughters", Molly Mae and Lucy Lou.

Dave graduated from Burlington High School in 1965 and received his Master's Degree from the University of Iowa in 1974. He was a U.S. Air Force veteran and served in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970. He retired from the State of Iowa Department of Corrections. He started his extensive career as a counselor and staff psychologist at the Anamosa Reformatory. He then became the youngest warden in the state of Iowa at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison. In 1981 he became the superintendent of the Mental Health Institute and Medium Security Unit in Mt. Pleasant. He retired as deputy warden from the Iowa Medical Classification Center (IMCC) at Oakdale. Dave enjoyed boating, music, attending Vietnam veteran reunions and spending time with his family.

Dave was preceded in death by his father Howard. He is survived by his wife Julie Scurr of Coralville; his mother Catherine Scurr of Worthington, MN; one brother Robert Scurr (Louise) of Lake Carroll, IL; two sisters, Le Lucht (Larry) of Worthington, MN, and Bonnie Smith (Jim) of Millersburg; his daughters; his grandchildren Seth and Ava Grace Cohen, Alexia and Samuel Banks, and Graham, Alexis, and Elizabeth Oetken; and several nieces, nephews, great nieces, and great nephews. Dave also leaves many good friends throughout the state of Iowa.

Terry Hayes Sales

Terry Hayes Sales, a singer and actress who had recorded more than 900 books for the American Printing House for the Blind, died on Monday at a nursing home in Rowley, Mass. She was 94. Sales moved to Massachusetts from Louisville in August 2009 to be near her son, Michael Sales, who said she died of Alzheimer's disease. In December 1988, Sales was inducted into the American Foundation for the Blind's Talking Book Hall of Fame, one of two living charter members cited for significant achievement in the narration of talking books. Sales had "this remarkable ability to tell a story," according to Steve Mullins, studio director for the American Printing House for the Blind, where Sales did her recordings. "She was very charming." With thousands of books recorded, all of them staying in circulation for many years, narrators developed followers, Mullins said. "People, in some ways, grew up with her," he said. Among her work are three narrations of "Little Women," as well as most of the Nancy Drew books. The recordings were produced for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, a division of the Library of Congress, which honored Sales in 1998 for her dedicated service of more than 60 years as a narrator. Sales likely was the narrator longest affiliated with the American Printing House for the Blind, Mullins said. She began narrating in 1938, just one year after the printing house released its first talking book, "Gulliver's Travels." In 2006, though she was no longer a regularly scheduled narrator at the printing house, Sales participated in the 75th anniversary celebration and marathon recording session of that book with 44 other narrators. Mullins said he was almost certain Sales was the only person to have made the transition from the earliest recordings made on wax through the era of tape and into the current digital age, recording on all mediums.

Sales was a high school sophomore when she landed her first professional gig as a staff singer on WBBM radio in her hometown of Chicago. She met Louisville native Stuart Sales while he was a student at the University of Illinois, their son said, and they married in Chicago when she was 19. While her husband later served in the Navy, she did a talk show on WGN in Chicago as well as commercials and serial acting before the couple returned to Louisville.

In Louisville, she continued to sing on radio for both WAVE and WHAS. According to her son, she inherited the show Dale Evans did at WHAS after Evans left. She also appeared in some ensemble television casts, and was involved in numerous local theater projects. When she heard about the talking books at the American Printing House for the Blind, her son said she considered it an acting opportunity. Sales also funded the launch of Audio Description at The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts in 1991 in memory of her husband, who died in 1987. The program provides narrators who broadcast live descriptions of the action onstage to audience members during performances. She also was the voice on the center's 10th anniversary "Tour on Tape," and co-wrote that script.

A graveside service is planned for 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday at The Temple cemetery. A memorial service will be held sometime next year, her son said. Herman Meyer & Son funeral home is handling arrangements.

Priscilla McKinley

(Editor's Note: Several Bulletin subscribers have asked how I determine whose obituary will appear in this column. I include those individuals who have a direct connection to ICUB members or those who have made significant contributions to the blindness community. Though some may find Priscilla's NFB allegiance objectionable, her accomplishments and commitment to standing up for her beliefs are to be respected.)

Priscilla McKinley of Iowa City, and formerly of St. Ansgar, died on Sunday, December 12 at her home in Iowa City.

Priscilla Leigh McKinley was born on August 10, 1961, in Osage, Iowa, the youngest child of the late Philip and Phyllis McKinley. She grew up in St. Ansgar, graduating from St. Ansgar High School in 1979. Despite losing her eyesight at age 22, due to complications of diabetes, and suffering serious health problems for many years, Priscilla lived an exceptionally full life and was an inspiration to many others as a successful, confident, and competent blind person. She earned her B.A. degree in English at the University of Iowa in 1993 followed by a Master of Fine Arts degree with honors in Nonfiction Writing in 1998, and her Ph.D. degree in Language, Literacy, and Culture in 2006. Her doctoral dissertation, Literacy in the Lives of the Blind, investigated how literacy practices of the blind have been influenced by technology and sponsors of literacy, including parents, teachers, and rehabilitation professionals. As a strong advocate for making computing technology more accessible and of exploiting that technology to improve the lives of vision-impaired people, Priscilla's pioneering approaches gained the attention of the popular press, and she was featured in an article in the New York Times and on the CBS Evening News.

Priscilla won numerous scholarships and awards, including a 1996 National Federation of the Blind scholarship and a 1998 NFB TenBroeck Fellowship. As a graduate student and instructor at the University of Iowa, Priscilla taught many writing courses and was an engaging and beloved teacher. In 2000, based on nominations by her current and former students, she was named Blind Educator of the Year by the National Federation of the Blind.

A prolific writer, Priscilla had numerous works published in technical journals, literary magazines and books. She was a seemingly tireless organizer and served in many positions, including vice president of the National Organization of Blind Educators, as a member of the Board of Directors of the NFB of Iowa, and as a mentor to many individuals who had recently lost their vision. She was serving as president of the Old Capitol Chapter of the NFB at the time of her death.

Through her stubborn refusal to give in to the complications of diabetes, she defied the odds so many times that those close to her began to feel she was invincible. Known for her independent spirit, feisty character, and perseverance, Priscilla was able to find humor in the most dire situations, even if it meant laughing at herself. In spite of many health setbacks, she was able to go on and reach outstanding personal achievements and touch the lives of many individuals outside her circle of family and friends. Priscilla was a loving and devoted mother, a beloved sister and aunt, and a cherished friend. She will be missed by all.

Priscilla is survived by her son, Jonathan Whalen, of Vienna, Virginia, her companion C. Thomas Foster of Iowa City, two sisters, Ann Randall of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Jane McKinley of Hopewell, New Jersey, two brothers, William McKinley of Madison, Wisconsin, and Philip McKinley of Okemos, Michigan, nine nieces and nephews, her sweet dog, Bella, and many relatives and friends. She was preceded in death by her parents and a sister, Marcia McKinley.

A private burial will be held at the St. Ansgar City Cemetery on Tuesday, December 28, at 2:00 p.m. Friends are invited to gather to offer their condolences to the family at the United Methodist Fellowship Hall, 510 West Fourth Street, St. Ansgar, Iowa. A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, December 29 at 11:00 a.m. at the Iowa Memorial Union on North Madison Street in Iowa City. Arrangements have been made through Lensing Funeral Service in Iowa City.

Ruth L. Ball

Ruth Louise (Nichols) Ball was born on September 7, 1919 in Easton, Massachusetts to Clarence and Hattie (Harlow) Nichols. She graduated from Oliver Ames High School with the class of 1938. Ruth studied music from Miss Marianna Lillie, and then she became active as a church organist and choir director. She spent many years teaching classical and sacred piano and organ music to hundreds of students for nearly 50 years. In 1945 she moved to Iowa and then to Kansas and in 1965 she moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa. Her interest in ham radios is what brought Ruth and her husband Wayne "Doc" Ball together. They were married December 15, 1979, in Doc's house in the radio room. The couple made their home in Woodbine. Ruth became a resident of Rose Vista in 2008.

Ruth was a member of the First Christian Church and Women’s Fellowship. She was also an active member of the Boyer Valley Amateur Radio Club.

Ruth died January 7, 2011, at Rose Vista Nursing Home in Woodbine, Iowa at the age of 91 years and four months. Ruth was preceded in death by her parents; husband, Doc Ball on December 13, 1996; brother, Roger Nichols; and sister, Mabel Magnuson. She is survived by her daughter, Alice and her husband Jerry Norris of Longmont; son, Alan Clark of Council Bluffs, Iowa; three granddaughters; six great-grandchildren; sister Priscilla Wheeler of Shinnston, West Virginia; three brothers, Paul Nichols of West Palm Beach, Florida, Earl Nichols of Carversville, Pennsylvania, Russell Nichols of Caldwell, New Jersey; sister-in-law, Inez McElwain of Dennison, Iowa; and many other relatives and friends.



By Peter Keepnews

(Reprinted from The New York Times, February 14, 2011.)

George Shearing, the British piano virtuoso who overcame blindness to become a worldwide jazz star, and whose composition “Lullaby of Birdland” became an enduring jazz standard, died on Monday in Manhattan. He was 91.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said his manager, Dale Sheets. Mr. Shearing had homes in Manhattan and Lee, Mass.

In 1949, just two years after Mr. Shearing immigrated to the United States, his recording of “September in the Rain” became an international hit. Its success established him as a hot property on the jazz nightclub and concert circuit. It established something else as well: the signature sound of the George Shearing Quintet, which was not quite like anything listeners had heard before — or have heard since.

“When the quartet came out in 1949, it was a very placid and peaceful sound, coming on the end of a very frantic and frenetic era known as bebop,” Mr. Shearing said in a 1995 interview on the Web site What he was aiming for, he said, was “a full block sound, which, if it was scored for saxophones, would sound like the Glenn Miller sound. And coming at the end of the frenetic bebop era, the timing seemed to be right.”

The Shearing sound — which had the harmonic complexity of bebop but eschewed bebop’s ferocious energy — was built on the unusual instrumentation of vibraphone, guitar, piano, bass and drums. To get the “full block sound” he wanted, he had the vibraphone double what his right hand played and the guitar double the left. That sound came to represent the essence of sophisticated hip for countless listeners worldwide who preferred their jazz on the gentle side.

The personnel of the Shearing quintet changed many times over the years, but except for the addition of a percussionist in 1953 — the band continued to be called a quintet even after it became a sextet — the instrumentation and the sound remained the same for almost three decades.

When Mr. Shearing disbanded the group in 1978, it was less because listeners had grown tired of that instrumentation and sound (although the group’s popularity, like that of mainstream jazz in general, had declined considerably) than because Mr. Shearing himself had.

“I had an identity. I held on to it for 29 years. Eventually I held on like grim death,” he told John S. Wilson of The New York Times in 1986. “The last five years I played on automatic pilot. I could do the whole show in my sleep.”

Shortly after breaking up the group, Mr. Shearing said, “There won’t be another quintet unless Standard Oil or Frank Sinatra want it.” Standard Oil never asked, but in 1981 Mr. Shearing reassembled the quintet for a Boston engagement and a series of Carnegie Hall concerts as Mr. Sinatra’s opening act. He returned to the quintet format on occasion after that, but it was never again his primary focus.

His preferred format became the piano-bass duo, originally with Brian Torff and later with Don Thompson and Neil Swainson. He also performed with bass and drums and, on occasion, unaccompanied. In the 1980s and ’90s he had great success in concert and on record with the singer Mel Tormé.

By his own estimate Mr. Shearing wrote about 300 tunes, of which he liked to joke that roughly 295 were completely unknown.

He nevertheless contributed at least one bona fide standard to the jazz repertory: “Lullaby of Birdland,” written in 1952 and adopted as the theme song of the world-famous New York nightclub where he frequently performed. Both as an instrumental and with words by George David Weiss, it has been recorded by everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Bill Haley and His Comets, who improbably cut a version called “Lullaby of Birdland Twist” in 1962.

George Albert Shearing was born on Aug. 13, 1919, in the Battersea area of London, the youngest of nine children. His father, James Phillip Shearing, was a coal worker; his mother, the former Ellen Amelia Brightner, took care of the family during the day and cleaned trains at night.

In his autobiography, “Lullaby of Birdland” (2004), written with Alyn Shipton, Mr. Shearing recalled that his first attempts at making music involved throwing bottles from an upstairs window: milk bottles for a classical sound, beer for jazz. More conventionally, he began picking out tunes on the family piano at age 3, even though it had only 85 working keys.

Blind from birth, Mr. Shearing attended the Shillington School for the Blind and the Linden Lodge School for the Blind, both in London. It was at Linden Lodge that Mr. Shearing, captivated by the recordings of American jazz pianists like Art Tatum and Fats Waller, began to study piano.

He was discouraged from pursuing his interest in the classics, he later recalled, by a teacher who recognized his gifts as an improviser and felt that studying classical music would be a waste of time. He nonetheless came to see the value of classical training; he later returned to the classics and eventually performed Bach and Mozart on several occasions with symphony orchestras.

Mr. Shearing began his career at 16, when another blind pianist gave up his job playing in a London pub and recommended Mr. Shearing as his replacement. He eventually had his own 15-minute show on the BBC and was voted Britain’s best jazz pianist seven consecutive years in the poll conducted by the magazine Melody Maker. He was indisputably a star at home; the next stop, clearly, was the United States.

Glenn Miller and Fats Waller, among others, encouraged Mr. Shearing to try his luck in the United States after World War II ended. But the booking agents were not especially impressed. At home he had sometimes been billed as “England’s Art Tatum” or “England’s Teddy Wilson.” But, he told The Times in 1986, when he performed for one American agent he received a curt response: “What else can you do?” It was not enough, he realized, to sound like other pianists. He needed to develop a sound of his own.

Mr. Shearing found it with the help of a fellow Englishman, the jazz critic and pianist Leonard Feather, who like him had moved to the United States, and who suggested what became his signature instrumentation. With Margie Hyams on vibraphone, Chuck Wayne on guitar, John Levy on bass and Denzil Best on drums, Mr. Shearing recorded “September in the Rain” in 1949. The distinctive sound of both the quintet and Mr. Shearing himself — he used a so-called locked-hands style in which his hands played melody and harmony in close quarters, with the melody line harmonized by the right hand and doubled by the left hand an octave below — caught listeners’ fancy, and stardom soon followed.

In the early years of Mr. Shearing’s renown he recorded for the MGM label, but his longest professional relationship was with Capitol, where he was a mainstay of the roster from 1955 to 1969. In addition to recording him with his quintet, Capitol teamed him with a number of singers, including Peggy Lee, Nancy Wilson and even Nat (King) Cole, an accomplished jazz pianist in his own right, who relinquished the piano chair to Mr. Shearing on a memorable 1961 album.

With the market for jazz shrinking in the late 1960s, Capitol chose not to re-sign Mr. Shearing. He then formed his own small record company, Sheba, but that enterprise was short-lived. In 1979, a year after disbanding his quintet, he signed with Concord, a jazz label, and his career soon underwent a resurgence.

It was under Concord’s aegis that he first recorded with Mel Tormé. Their albums “An Evening With George Shearing and Mel Tormé” and “Top Drawer” won Grammys — for Mr. Tormé but not for Mr. Shearing, who despite his many other accomplishments never won one.

In the ’80s, Mr. Shearing also recorded unaccompanied; in duet with his fellow pianists Marian McPartland and Hank Jones; and in settings as uncharacteristic as a Dixieland band. He continued performing into his 80s and stopped only after suffering a fall in 2004, which led to a long hospital stay.

Mr. Shearing’s marriage to Beatrice Bayes ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, the former Ellie Geffert, and a daughter, Wendy.

Mr. Shearing was invited to perform at the White House by three presidents: Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. He performed for the British royal family as well. The British Academy of Composers and Songwriters gave him the Ivor Novello Award for lifetime achievement in 1993. In 1996 he was invested as an officer in the Order of the British Empire, and 11 years later he was knighted.

“I don’t know why I’m getting this honor,” he said shortly after learning of his knighthood. “I’ve just been doing what I love to do.”


Ever go to a store and see the children's book you want and find yourself wishing that book were in Braille? Well, wish no more. Beulah Reimer Legacy, (BRL), has many of the most popular children's picture books such as Clifford, Corduroy, Curious George, Disney Princesses, Dora and the Berenstain Bears in Braille at affordable prices. BRL's mission is to increase Braille literacy and reading opportunities by placing Braille in the hands of eager readers. Whether it be a child who wants his own Braille book that he doesn't have to return to the library; a blind parent, grandparent or other blind adult who wants to share a book with a child; or a teacher of the visually impaired, BRL is dedicated to meeting your Braille needs.

All of our books are Brailled with clear plastic strips which are placed on top of the printed text. Our books are shipped free of charge. Please allow two weeks for delivery.

COMING SOON: flash cards! Yes, in March, BRL will offer print/Braille addition, subtraction and multiplication facts as well as sight words, state capitols and a few Braille card games.

BRL accepts checks, money orders and purchase orders. We also accept payment online via Pay Pal. To request the most recent booklist, place an order or receive more information about BRL, please use the contact information below: April Enderton, 7758 Southeast 36th Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50320

Phone: 515-282-0049, E-Mail:



(The following announcement came from Deanna Marcum, Associate Librarian of Congress for Library Services concerning the retirement of Frank Kurt Cylke.)

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing with the news that Frank Kurt Cylke, longtime director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), has retired from federal service effective February 28, 2011.

Mr. Cylke was appointed to the position of NLS director in 1973.

Since that time he has led NLS in a career of committed and dedicated service to the nation's libraries and to the blind and physically handicapped citizens of the United States.

On March 3, 2011, NLS will celebrate the 80th anniversary of its founding legislation. Tribute will be paid to Mr. Cylke's exceptional career and to his leadership in accomplishing the transition from analog to digital technology in 2009 with the launch of the Digital Talking Book program.

I am pleased to announce that Ruth Scovill will serve as acting NLS director. Ms. Scovill will serve in this role during an interim period, while the position of NLS director is being posted and filled permanently through a nationwide search.

Ms. Scovill is the director of Technology Policy in Library Services at the Library of Congress. With extensive experience in information technology, and a knowledge and appreciation of NLS from her work in 2008 on a major study related to the development of the Digital Talking Book system, Ms. Scovill will work to assure a smooth transition for NLS until a permanent director is appointed.

Special thanks to all of you for continuing your steadfast commitment to the mission of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

Cedar Rapids Chapter Update

Although it will be a short one, it is time for ICUB chapter and Support Group reports, so here goes. We want to thank all who helped to make our Christmas auction another success. Then came the New Year with each of us wanting only a good year and God’s Blessings. New officers did not come with the new year. They remain the same. Shirley Wiggins president, Eldred Gerhold vice president, Ruth Hamdorf secretary, Judy McCarty treasurer. Board members: Ruth Failor, Walter Hilmer, Dove Tanner and Bernadette Parcell. We now have 12 members, 1 more than the year before. At least we are going up, "Right?" Winter kept us from having meetings other than by phone. It works. We do plan a get-together meeting Friday the first of April, topic being the upcoming State Convention. I'll share the outcome of the convention with you in our next Bulletin. The Support group had a Christmas party with gift sharing and very well done solos by Eldred Gerhold and Jonathan Ice. Unfortunately we have started our new year with two of our long-time members passing away. We lost Kay Pavek and Tomi Kendall. Florence Baloo and Kay Kraner are no longer able to attend meetings because of health reasons, but they are still on our roll call at their wish. We have four new members, and we can tell they will be a fine addition. We were snowed out of our meeting in Feb., but had a late Valentine's Day in March along with Jonathan as our speaker. He always brings something interesting when I call on him. Becky Criswell will be visiting us in April, and Louise Duvall and Jo Ann Slayton will be with us in May. I have plans for the Support Group through July. That keeps them looking forward to our get-together, and it keeps me from thinking about what comes next. This is all for this time. Have a good Spring and warm Summer. Keep safe. Shirley Wiggins

Dubuque Association of the Blind Update

By Bob Nesler

We don't have much news, since our chapter doesn't meet from December to March. So far, my family and Rose Stratton are planning to attend the Convention in May. We may have a few others going after our meeting this month. See you there.

How Do You Spell It

Contributed by Jo Slayton

Libya's leader Colonel Muammar Qaddafi - M-u-a-m-m-a-r Q-a-d-d-a-f-i, sometimes spelled with el (e-l) preceding Qaddafi. It is also often seen as Moammar Gaddhafi M-o-a-m-m-a-r G-a-d-d-h-a-f-i

Libya: L-i-b-y-a

Tripoli, capital of Libya: T-r-i-p-o-l-i

Recently deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak: H-o-s-n-i M-u-b-a-r-a-k

In Japan, the Fukushima nuclear plant: F-u-k-u-s-h-i-m-a n-u-c-l-e-a-r

Reuters Press: R-e-u-t-e-r-s

The Aljazeera Press: A-l-j-a-z-e-e-r-a

After the earthquake we've heard a lot again about tsunami: t-s-u-n-a-m-i.

Recipe Corner

By Mike Hoenig

Better Butterscotch Brownies

1 batch makes nine, 3-inch square brownies


1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 stick creamy unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 eggs

1/2 cup butterscotch chips


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch square baking pan

with non-stick cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder and

salt, mix well. Add butter, water, vanilla and eggs, and blend well.

Spread the mixture evenly into your prepared pan. Sprinkle with

butterscotch chips.

3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center

comes out clean.

(A word to the wise: The toothpick will not come out completely clean because of the butterscotch chips on top. I recommend baking for 30 minutes.)

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