[NFBWATLK] Fwd: Another Blind New Mexican, almost, from the Blind History Lady

semisweetdebby at gmail.com semisweetdebby at gmail.com
Sun Apr 23 04:36:19 UTC 2017

What a nice article about Mike! I still think about his deep strong voice, and miss him. His warmth, his honesty and his caring were certainly part of my shifting organizations. What a talented, gifted man Mike was!    Debby

On Apr 21, 2017 8:31 AM, Denise Mackenstadt via NFBWATLK <nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org> wrote:
> Denise Mackenstadt, NOMC 
> Orientation and Mobility Specialist 
> 206-419-9555 
> cane.travel at gmail.com 
> Sent from my iPad 
> Begin forwarded message: 
> > From: "Peggy Chong" <peggychong at earthlink.net> 
> > Date: April 21, 2017 at 7:13:12 AM PDT 
> > To: "Chong Peggy" <peggychong at earthlink.net> 
> > Subject: Another Blind New Mexican, almost, from the Blind History Lady 
> > 
> > Good Morning to All; 
>> > Being from New Mexico, I tend to highlight Blind New Mexican's in my Blind History Lady programs such as Pauline Gomez from last month's email.  Today, I wish to honor a Blind man who gave some thought of becoming a New Mexican after attending college at the University of New Mexico.  Unfortunately, we could not keep him here. 
>> > Michael Freeman was born October 30, 1948, two months pre-mature, causing blindness.  HE attended Oregon public schools and the Washington State School for the blind before entering into Reed College in Portland Oregon where he earned honors for his high academic achievements. 
>> > He learned braille as a young child as well as touch-typing and how to manage human readers to access the multitudes of educational material that were not in any sort of alternative format for any blind person during his educational career.  Mike earned many scholarships because of his academic achievements from diverse organizations to help pay for his education in a field not thought of as a good possibility for a blind man. 
>> > Mike did not see himself as "disabled", a term that for many during his early life brought up visions of something broken.  Family and educators told Mike that he was no better or worse than anyone else.  He was in charge of his destiny and his life would be what he made of it.  Mike was made aware from an early age from those around him that he, as a blind person would face far more obstacles to education and employment than his sighted peers.  But to reach the ultimate goal of the American dream of owning a home, having a family and being an active part of the community as was expected of others in his generation, he would just have to work a little harder. 
>> > In 1971, he came to  Las Cruces to attend the University of New Mexico where he took part in many activities on campus and easily became a leader in student groups.  Although the "Barrier Breakers" organization on campus made up of mostly students with mobility disabilities did not focus on the barriers Mike faced as a blind student at that time, he knew the value of working together and supporting each other.  The organization helped him hone his leadership skills.  Mike was a natural spokesman with his pleasant and deep, strong voice that caught the attention of anyone nearby.  His self-assuredness made it easy for everyone who listened to Mike, to adopt Mikes concerns and willingly follow his lead.  A gift that served him well all of his life. 
>> > After getting his BA from the UNM in Las Cruces, job offers here in New Mexico were not forthcoming.  He believed that his blindness definitely kept him from finding employment as a physicist here in the land of enchantment.  So, back to Washington state where he landed a position as a computer systems programmer at the Bonneville Power Administration, an agency of the US Department of Energy a job he held for thirty plus years.   Mike  retired at the end of July, 2013. 
>> > Michael's talents were reflected as much by his personal interests and accomplishments as they were in his professional achievements. He spoke fluent German, and he was able to converse competently in French and Spanish. He played several musical instruments, most notably piano. Michael recalled in an article for a blindness publication several years ago that one of his fondest memories was the honor of playing George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue with the Oregon Symphony Orchestra in 1971 at the age of 23. Another passion was working as an amateur radio operator since 1962 and was still a member of the Clark County Ham Radio Club in 2016.  At the time of his death, he held an Amateur Extra Class License. He was a voracious reader, particularly interested in military and political history, foreign affairs, economics, fire science, the natural sciences, music, and medicine. 
>> > He enjoyed camping in his small camping trailer with family and friends.  He enjoyed debating almost any subject.  He had a great sense of humor that no matter how much anyone would disagree with his sometimes "curmudgeon" viewpoint, one could not help to like him as a man. 
>> > Mike married twice.  Mike and his first wife, unable to have children, turned to adoption.  Mikes blindness proved again to be a barrier.  Agencies claimed that because he was blind, it would be hard for him to raise a "normal" child.  Wanting to be a parent more than prove he could raise a "normal" child, the adopted a special needs child, requiring much one-on-one support for the rest of the child's life.  The irony of this logic was not lost on Mike. 
>> > In 2005, after a severe bout of the flu, Mike found out he was a diabetic when he almost went into a diabetic coma on a trip to Seattle, Washington.  His legs cramped and he fell and became seriously disoriented.  Mike  was rushed to the emergency room.  Many tests were quickly performed.  The results were most definite  and he was quickly put on an insulin drip.  When he came out of what he called "the fog", the Doctor informed Mike that he needed to be on an insulin drip immediately and would need to do so the rest of his life.  Here again, Mikes deep belief in himself transferred to the medical professionals who discovered Mikes diabetes in the emergency room. 
>> > Mike's problem solving skills kicked in.  He knew little of diabetes, but did know that blind people handled their medical needs independently so, he just had to figure things out for himself.  Again, the ultimate goal was to get back to a normal life.  He talked to other blind diabetics, diabetes educators and researched all possible management tools.  Within days, Mike had control of the diabetes.  He had much yet to learn, but none of his medical team were worried that blindness would be a barrier for Mike in caring for himself as a diabetic. 
>> > In the past year, Mike learned that he had cancer.  Few in his life knew as Mike  just kept on being Mike, continuing to serve as a leader in many community organizations in his home state.  Then a bout with the flu sent him to the hospital where he suffered a "cardiac event" and quietly left us all on Christmas Eve of 2016. 
>> > We will all miss you Mike Freeman. 
>> > Peggy Chong 
> > The Blind History Lady 
> > www.theblindhistorylady.com 
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