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May 30, 2004

Woman hit by train is remembered

From: News 10 Now - Syracuse,NY,USA - May 30, 2004

5/30/2004 6:59 PM
By: Kristin Smith, News 10 Now Web Staff

Matilda Letham, 54-years-old, was simply know by her friends as "Mattie". She was one of the hearing impaired community's strongest advocates. She worked with the hearing impaired at St. Lucy's Church in Syracuse. She, too, was deaf and also blind. But Saturday, her life was cut short when she was hit and killed by a CSX train while walking near her home in Liverpool.

Marion Baratta has been friends with Letham for more than twenty years.

"She was a very warmhearted, fun-loving person, a very, very generous person. Always went the extra mile to help someone," said Marion Baratta.

Baratta says Letham lost her hearing when she was about 18-years-old and she became legally blind during pregnancy in her twenties. In recent years, some of her sight came back in the form of double vision, but the bright sunlight was still her vision's biggest enemy.

"The sunlight really, really bothered her. I mean it almost blinded her when she was outside. Like yesterday, it was very strong. She loved going to the park and the only way for her to get to the park was to cross the tracks," Baratta said.

Police say Letham's sight and hearing impaired condition contributed to the accident. They say she did not respond to the train's warning horn.

Now that she's gone, the community she worked for will miss her.

"We're really devastated and we're going to pray for her. We pray for her and her son, Aurora, her son and Aurora, Central New York. And we're very saddened by this entire event," said Elaine Coleman, Friend of Letham's.

Letham also worked for the Central New York Association for the Hearing Impaired and was a social worker for Aurora of Central New York, which is a nonprofit agency for the handicapped.

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