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March 14, 2004

Margery Wall, devoted life to fulfilling needs of deaf

From: San Jose Mercury News - San Jose,CA,USA - Mar 14, 2004

By Betty Barnacle Mercury News

Margery Wall heard the call to her future from a friend's deaf child, and for nearly a half century devoted herself to helping those afflicted with deafness from San Jose to Africa.

None of Mrs. Wall's four children knows the name of the youngster who so moved their mother.

But they recall that she came in contact with the child when she and her husband were living in Port Orchard, Wash., where the Rev. Albert Wall was pastor of Bethel Community Church from 1945 until they moved to San Jose in 1954.

Mrs. Wall, who died at 90 on March 9 of congestive heart failure, studied sign language in San Jose and then taught her husband how to sign, according to their oldest child, Edith-Helen Hilts.

''She was the most proficient in signing,'' her daughter said.

During their first 13 years in San Jose, the couple had a public television show, ''The Silent Ear.'' They also founded the now-defunct Missions to the Deaf, a faith-based but ecumenical facility open to anyone who was deaf in the San Jose area. In the summer, the Walls took deaf youngsters to a camp they ran for 17 years.

At various local churches, her daughter said, Mrs. Wall signed during the services and also taught sign language classes. Later she and her husband opened Outreach for the Deaf in San Jose, which operated until seven years ago. Donations supported their projects.

In 1980, the Walls made the first of three visits to Africa to aid deaf children in Kenya and Nigeria.

''They stayed about two months each time,'' their daughter said, ''and helped set up schools for the deaf who until then only had been taught lip reading. They stopped going because it was very hard on Dad's health.''

Mrs. Wall's husband, whose mission had become the deaf, not a parish, died late last year in San Jose where the couple made their last home in an assisted living facility.

Born in Canada, Mrs. Wall became a U.S. citizen in her 50s. Even before then, her daughter said, she was so patriotic she made her children stand when ''The Star Spangled Banner,'' was played, even if just on the radio.

A generous hostess who in her younger years invited members of the military to holiday dinners she cooked, Mrs. Wall was skilled at crocheting, her daughter said.

But her children as well as hundreds of deaf in San Jose remember her nimble fingers best when they were signing.

Margery Wall

Born: July 31, 1913, in North Vancouver, British Columbia.

Died: March 9, 2004, in San Jose.

Survived by: Her children, Ed Wall of San Jose, Edith-Helen Hilts of Seldovia, Alaska, Ruth Wall of Fergus, Ontario, and Rebecca King of Crescent City; brother Doug Williams, of Richmond, Va.; nine grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

Services: A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. today at Church on the Hill, 500 Sands Drive, San Jose.

Memorial: Donations may be made in Mrs. Wall's name to the Mission Fund of Church on the Hill, 500 Sands Drive, San Jose, Calif. 95125.

Contact Betty Barnacle at or (408) 920-5321.

© 2004 Mercury News and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.