[nfbmi-talk] Newbie...

Marcus Simmons marcus.simmons at comcast.net
Sun Oct 25 21:19:32 CDT 2009

I also lost my sight late in life. However, it doesn't stop me. My story is
as follows:

I am a product of the Detroit School System. I attended the Day School for
the Deaf and upon completion wanted to go to Cass Technical High School, a
premier college prep high school. No student has been able to accomplish
this before; therefore the administration refused to help. It seems some
better-equipped students tried this in the past and had to drop out. When it
was apparent that Marcus was not going to give up, the administration agreed
and I was admitted. One of the other reasons I wanted to go to Cass was that
my older brother went to the neighborhood high school and I was tired of
following in his foot steps.

This was the first challenge. The Detroit Day School for the Deaf taught you
how to get along in society, not how to be prepared for college. I was in
with the big boys now. My grades went from A's and B's to D's and E's during
those first semesters. Better study habits were acquired, fast. I graduated
in 1963 in the automotive curriculum. In 1965,

I purchased a brand new high performance Mustang convertible. I took
delivery on my twenty-first birthday. Preliminary research indicates that a
subsequent owner of this vehicle was the Chief of Police, Ike McKinnon.
Next, in 1966I got a job at Bendix Industrial Controls on the drafting
board. This prepared me to produce blueprints. For a long time, my fellow
employees thought that I was making my letters with a lettering template.
Can you imagine their surprise, when I told them I was doing it all

I became a FORD loyalist because my uncle put in 46 years at Ford and my dad
retired with 43 years of service. A few years later in 1967, I started to
design my first drag race vehicle.

When I ventured into racing I had a 1960 Falcon with a powerful VS.-8 
This vehicle was appropriately named "BLUE MAGOO", after the near-sighted
cartoon character. Not knowing what would happen to my eyesight condition in
the coming years. In 15 meets I only lost twice and both times, to the same
car, A 1965 Mustang called "COBRA II" driven by Bob Corn, then the muscle
parts program Coordinator for FORD. He later went into partnership with Jack
Roush at Roush Industries. One year he showed up running the quarter mile a
whole second quicker, so I asked him what he changed. Bob said it was a new
BOSS 302 engine, to be released for 1969.

My second new car was a 1970 BOSS 302

Mustang ordered in November of 1969 for $3258.

This vehicle was originally to be painted Acapulco blue, medium metallic
Blue, and delete racing strips, but FORD said "no" and I had to pick a color
over the phone without the benefit of actually seeing the pigments. As it
was latter known, one other person ordered the same color on a 1970 model
BOSS 302 and it came through. If I had this knowledge, I would have been
more persistence. Anyhow, I picked bright gold metallic "baby poop brown" as
some call it. I was so excited about taking delivery; I was at the
dealership less than two hours after it arrived off the transporter one
afternoon. A bribe of a 6-pack convinced the dealership mechanic to stay
over time and we both prepped the car for delivery that evening. At the
first opportunity, the color was switched to blue and the stripes went

Now my focus was on getting a degree to make myself a better hot rodder, so
I went back to school.

On my first attempt to enter Wayne State, I was informed that I was not
college material. My best decision was to complete a junior college and then
reapply. In 1969 I entered Wayne County Community College. After two year
and a 3.75 GPA, I was allowed to enroll at Wayne State to pursue a degree in
engineering. This also presented itself as a greater challenge. Academic
probation mend that more effective study habits were required. Attending
school was a part time proposition at this point, because I still had a
full-time job at Bendix on the drafting board.

In 1971 I was laid-off from Bendix and I then found employment with Fords
Engine Electrical and Engineering buildings Diagnostic Lab to make every
thing "super". The head of engineering stated Ford would plan my work around
my classes. Apparently, this message didn't filter down to my supervisor.
After a few years at the Diagnostic Lab, the supervisor approached me. He
asked me what my goal was. I responded without hesitation, "I want to be the
Diagnostic lab supervisor". Somehow, I don't think that sat very well with

Then there was the time when my supervisor came to me with lips dripping
with words of interposition, to inform me that I had to replace an engine,
which I had serviced the week before. It turned out, that the oil filter was
installed with both the old and new gasket. While the owner was driving the
car over the weekend, the old gasket failed and dumped all of the oil out
and the engine died. Since I worked on the vehicle, he demanded that I
replace the engine on my own time. However, I directed him to the work
order, which showed that I did not do the oil change. It was the technician
on the nest shift that completed the task.

Later, he approached me again. This time the question was, "What is your
focus? Wayne State or Ford Motor Company? It has to be one or the other" and
not both. Of course, I picked the third option, an educational leave from
Ford and a full time load at Wayne State. Graduation from Wayne State and a
B.S.M.E. came in 1977 another goal accomplished.

At This time, the BOSS was a street cruiser with 100 watt headlamps; regular
vehicles use 55 watts lamps. Since I had no night vision, this is how I
adapted to my changing environment.

In 1972 I rebuilt the engine for more performance. Soon after the rebuild I
broke-in the engine on the complete route 66, start (Chicago) to finish (Los
Angeles). On the return trip, I soloed from I.A. to Detroit in 33 hours;
however, I was still late for work by one day.

After my employment with Ford, I moved to GM Truck and Coach in 1976 because
they had a project engineer's position available, whereas, Ford did not.
This job lasted until 1980, when there was a massive layoff of employees
with less than 5 years of tenure, at GM and I was furloughed.

Up Intel this time, I was driving to work on 50% of what I could see, 25% on
what I remember and 25% on lady luck. This was a perfect time to quit.

I gave up driving because of failing eyesight from retinitis pigmentosa.
This should have been the end of my story, but this is where it gets

The next goal was to use the degree and build a car from scratch. I then
chose a replica 1965 427 Cobra. After one year of research the work started.
A frame of two by four steel tubing was welded together. A fiberglass shell
was purchased and prepared for the frame and drivetrain. I decided to use my
spare parts motor and transmission from my Boss 302 Mustang for this
project. To add emphasis, a 600 horsepower Gale Banks twin turbocharger
induction system was included. Also a MGB front suspension and a Jag rear
end was assembled because they contained genuine "knock-off wire wheels",
much like the real Cobra used from 1962 to 1964. The vehicle was designed to
"win" on the show car circuit, not to "compete". In another words, if I got
to the show on Thursday night "move-in and set-up your display night" (the
shows are open to the public on Friday); I had my first place trophy. The
other competitors in the class could fight for second, third and fourth
place. On the circuit I got first place in twenty events and misted the mark
only three times. That feat earned me the class championship in "Hand-built
Sports" in the Great Lakes Division of the International Show Car
Association (ISCA). My four consecutive first place wins at the prestigious
Detroit Cobo Autorama inspired others to try to duplicate my feat. It got so
bad with so many Cobras in "hand-built sports" class; they had to create a
special class for Cobras, separately from the rest.

In 1985, I gained employment with the General Motors Technical Center in
Warren Michigan. This position was procured strictly on the strength of my
resume. My first job at Truck and Coach was as a sighted engineer. This time
I came to work as a blind engineer. GM did not know that I was blind,
however they did find out when I reported to work, white cane and all!

The position opened up rather unexpectedly, the Federal compliance
coordinator developed a serious health problem and had to retire
immediately. This caused some concern with GM because a replacement was
needed in a hurry. The federal compliance coordinator is responsible for
assembling all of the documentation so the automaker can sell vehicles to
the general public. There was no one available, at the time that had the
specialized knowledge except me. The boss of the department didn't know the
job; the other workers didn't know how to do the job either. So I came in
the door, tapping with my long white cane.

Shortly after that feat, a Detroit businessman contacted me to build a 1931
Chevrolet sedan for the ISCA show car circuit. Construction took 3 years,
working at night, and this vehicle was also a winner and not a competitor.
We won every class we entered, finishing 25th in the nation. We traveled to
shows from Chicago to Texas and to London Ontario.

The next project I was involved in was the Boss Mustang. The Mustang was
stripped completely down to a bare shell, all rust panels replaced and
modified for very large rear tires, 14 inch wide. I had decided to return to
drag racing again. The Mustang now sported a 560 horsepower "Ford
Motorsports crate" motor. Best time to-Date was 10.79 seconds @ 126 Miles
Per Hour in the standing quarter mile.

I then decided to open an engineering agency called Simmons BOSS CREATIONS,
where I provide services to the show car, street rodder and drag race

Presently, I travel to the local schools with one of my vehicles and put on
presentations on topics such as goal setting and careers in the Motorsports

Sometimes my presentations come off as unbelievable to the students.
Animated discussions with the class instructors revealed that they thought a
blind individual could not build a car. With the slogan in mind: A man
convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. Therefore, I have
changed my presentations a little by including this statement, "In my hand
is a $50 bill. If someone can ask me a question that I can't answer about
this vehicle, the money is yours". Since I have had and worked on this
vehicle for over 38 years, it can't happen. I won't try to change the
student's minds; I let them reach their own conclusions.

The Mustang has now been upgraded to a Pro-Streeter. It carries all of the
required appendages, windshield wipers, turn signals and a full exhaust
system terminating under the rear valence panel.

To give back to the community, a group of businessmen, including myself,
from the Motown Automotive Professionals car club, decided to create a
501(C)(3), public charity, to be called Motown Automotive Professionals
nonprofit (MAPn) and the website can be found at:


And you can see our video at:


This is an automotive vocational training facility to provide a route for
the economically and socially deprived youth as the leave the public school
system, this includes the blind. MAPn will provide them   a way to become a
productive member of society. This facility will provide no-tuition training
for the youth to obtain the skills of an Automotive Service Excellence (ASE)
nationally certified technician.

This is our way of improving the aggregate value of the neighborhood. By
providing a productive outlet for the individuals that don't finish school,
we reduce the numbers of young adults that get into trouble.

Marcus Simmons
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Mary Ann Rojek" <brightsmile1953 at comcast.net>
To: "NFB of Michigan List" <nfbmi-talk at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Sunday, October 25, 2009 9:13 PM
Subject: Re: [nfbmi-talk] Newbie...

> Hi Ray,
> Thank you for sharing so much with the list.  I too agree that you will
> get a lot of support from it.
> I've been blind since infancy and reading Braille since around age five.
> I have an MSW and have been a psychotherapist for more than 20 years and
> am now working in quality management.
> Although our state convention starts on November 6th, the bulk of
> activities are on the 7th and 8th.
> I think your desire to learn Braille now is a great idea.  Another good
> web site to go to is www.braille.org.
> Your questions aren't dumb.  Feel free to keep asking.  I'm using a screen
> reader called window-eyes to respond to your email
> I'm looking forward to hearing more from you.  If you get back to Michigan
> in time, please consider coming to convention.  .
> Attendees always learn a lot and the environment is warm, positive and
> very supportive.
> Mary Ann Rojek----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Raymond Juliano" <rayj1941 at gmail.com>
> To: "NFB of Michigan List" <nfbmi-talk at nfbnet.org>
> Sent: Sunday, October 25, 2009 6:47 PM
> Subject: Re: [nfbmi-talk] Newbie...
>> Hi Terri,
>> Thank you for replying.  We live in Curtis, MI which is in the U.P..  We
>> are
>> about 25 miles west of Newberry which is where I work.  I've ordered a
>> couple of publications re. Braille from the NFB, and the president of
>> your
>> state NFB e-mailed me with some phone numbers to call re. learning
>> Braille.
>> I have not had a chance to call them yet, but I am planning on doing so
>> this
>> week.
>> I feel a little funny about doing this now since I still have good vision
>> in
>> my right eye, but that could be subject to change.  I just don't want to
>> wait until the last minute to do this, and your president thought it was
>> a
>> good idea.  I do have some slight peripheral neuropathy of my hands, and
>> more so of my feet, and I play the guitar so I am trying to keep the
>> fingertips of my left hand toughened up for playing, but the fingertips
>> of
>> my right hand are sensitive to touch.  I got the Braille Alphabet card
>> from
>> our library, and I was wondering how difficult it was going to be to get
>> adept with Braille?
>> I am legally blind in my left eye, and I just can't imagine being totally
>> blind.  I am still working full time at our little critical access
>> hospital
>> in Newberry as the sole nurse anesthetist, and I also am a hypnotherapist
>> which I do part time out of my home.  I plan on retiring from anesthesia
>> in
>> less than two years and then doing hypnosis full time and sending my wife
>> to
>> nursing school.  I will have been doing anesthesia for 44 years, so I
>> hope
>> to have some retirement years to enjoy with or without my sight.
>> I would like to attend your up-coming state convention, but I am going to
>> be
>> at a week long hypnosis seminar in TN the first week of November so I am
>> not
>> sure if I would be able to make it this year...if not then I will plan on
>> it
>> for next year.  Your president thought it would be a good idea to attend
>> it
>> also.
>> Please tell me a little about your lives and how you were able to reply
>> to
>> my e-mail if you don't mind.  I will most likely have a lot of dumb
>> questions to ask, so if you think I am overstepping bounds, please don't
>> hesitate to tell me.
>> Thanks again for writing and take care of each other.
>> Sincerely,
>> Ray Juliano
>> On Sun, Oct 25, 2009 at 4:49 PM, trising <trising at sbcglobal.net> wrote:
>>> Welcome to our list. I am Terri. My husband and I are totally blind from
>>> birth and in our thirties. We live independently in an apartment. I
>>> would be
>>> glad to help you with Braille if you live anywhere near us. We are in
>>> Ann
>>> Arbor.
>>> _______________________________________________
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