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June 2, 2004

For two decades, Meisser taught lip reading

From: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, WI - Jun 2, 2004


Posted: June 2, 2004

Every evening, she had her husband and three sons line up for family roll call.

Ginny Meisser would make sure they were all present and accounted for and then "give us an assignment," chuckled John Meisser, her husband of 50 years.

It was this kind of hands-on, involved approach that she took with everyone and everything in her life, said her longtime friend and neighbor, Gloria Matter.

Virginia Meisser died of complications from rheumatoid arthritis Thursday. She was 76.

She was always taking classes, engaging herself in new things, and traveling, Matter said. From taking language immersion courses in Germany to sewing, accounting and volunteering, she constantly challenged herself.

With her infectious and charming personality, she got her friends and family to follow along - except for one time.

In that situation, it was her son who got her to follow along.

Meisser's youngest son, Jim, was born deaf.

"We knew something was wrong when he was just a little over a year old," John Meisser said.

The Meissers, who were living in Cleveland at the time of Jim's birth, decided to move to Shorewood, where Jim could attend vocal/oral classes for hearing impaired children within the public school system.

"We thought it was important that he be able to go to the same school as his two older brothers," John Meisser said.

Shorewood was one of only two schools in the nation at the time that offered this kind of schooling - one that taught hearing impaired children to read lips and speak - in a public, day-school setting, Meisser's husband said.

After relocating to the Milwaukee area, Meisser figured she'd like to take a course or two on hearing loss, to enable her to be a better mother for Jim.

She ended up taking 75 course hours and earned a master's degree in deaf education.

For the next two decades, she taught children and adults at the Milwaukee Hearing Society to speak and lip-read.

In a 1987 news article, Meisser said the youngest pupil she ever had was 3 months old, the oldest, a woman who was 99.

"The 99-year-old was in a lip-reading group in a home for the elderly, and she still wanted to communicate," she said. "I marveled at that. She still wanted to be a part of the world."

Meisser, who lived in Shorewood for more than 40 years, will continue to be a presence, her husband said.

Meisser also volunteered for 12 years at Columbia hospital and worked for H&R Block, preparing taxes.

In addition to her husband and sons John and James, survivors include son Robert and four grandchildren.

Private services and internment are private.

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