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April 11, 2003

Coastal Club

From: Boothbay Register, ME - Apr 11, 2003

The Coastal Club met for its weekly meeting at the YMCA on Tuesday, April 1 at 10:30 a.m. President George Fotos opened the meeting and members were led in several springtime songs by Vivienne Daniels, but so far winter is still here. Then the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag was said.

Chaplain Mary Jo Zimmerli gave an inspiring meditation and closed with leading the club in singing and signing "Jesus Loves Me" as her husband Bob had the program of the day on some reflections on deafness.

Lois Seaman gave some announcements of upcoming programs and "introduced" Bob Zimmerli.

Bob began his presentation by greeting members in sign language with "Good morning, my name is Bob Zimmerli, how are you?" He then interpreted what he said and asked the group to repeat it - which they did.

He then explained his interest in deafness, relating that when he was nine years old, that after several serious ear infections and numerous operations his auditory system totally "shut down" and he was deaf for over a year. There was very little being done in deaf education at the time, so he was schooled at home and sent a tutor once or twice a week to give lessons. It was there he learned the "Rochester Method" of signing, which is basically "finger spelling" - a hand sign for every letter of the alphabet. After about a year, he had what turned out to be the final ear operation; his hearing was restored to normal.

Jumping ahead to the 1980s, Bob was serving a large church in Frederick, Maryland where several members of the congregation were deaf. With the help of members of the congregation, and teachers from the Maryland School for the Deaf (in Frederick), a program for the deaf in Frederick was established.

Bob was considering working towards his doctorate, and decided, in light of his early experience of deafness and working with the deaf, that he would do his work in Deaf Ministry. He was made a District Superintendent in the United Methodist Church and had nearly 80 churches to superintend, among which was a deaf church. Again working with that church, the Chaplain of Gallaudet College and many others, a Committee on Deaf Ministry was organized and continues to this day.

Bob pointed out many things about deafness and those who are in the "deaf community." First and foremost, one should never refer to a non-hearing person as "deaf and dumb." Also, impairment of hearing is the single most prevalent chronic physical disability in the U.S. More persons suffer a hearing defect than have visual impairments, heart disease, or other chronic disabilities.

Zimmerli said there are two basic types of deafness -- conductive and sensorineural. Conductive deafness means there is a problem in conducting sound through the chain of bones in the ear, and sensorineural means that the lesion or defect is within the inner ear, usually the eighth nerve, which carries the sound to the cortex of the brain.

After much more enlightening information about the deaf Bob gave members each copies of the "finger spelling" alphabet and asked to spell their own names, of which they received a passing grade for an excellent try.

The meeting closed with announcements, some humor and some coming events. All are welcome each Tuesday morning at 10:30 - there aren't many more Tuesdays until the club retires for the summer (rumor has it that there will be a summer) so come and be with the club.

© 2003 Boothbay Register