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November 21, 2004

Sharpe is living proof that miracles happen

From: Biloxi Sun Herald - Biloxi,MS,USA - Nov 21, 2004

Donald Sharpe, who has been deaf, or hearing impaired, since birth was installed as president of a local Kiwanis Club in October.

He was born premature at Keesler Medical Center, weighing only 2 pounds, and also had cerebral palsy. Doctors said he would not live. After four months in the hospital, he went home and his mother fed him with a syringe through a nasal tube. His parents were told he would never walk, and he was fitted with leg braces and special shoes, which he wore for seven years.

When Donald was 4, his mother heard him laughing and found him walking from bed to bed across the room. Donald calls this his first miracle. At age 5, he went to New Hope School in Gulfport, which served children with cerebral palsy. At age 10, doctors found he could hear slightly in his right ear but not his left. He then went to the Mississippi School for the Deaf in Jackson - a residential school that would provide a high school education.

There, he learned sign language, earned the Good Attitude Award and was named Mr. MSD. After high school, in 1973, he went for training in printing at a special training facility in Talladega, Ala., graduating in 1979.

While there, a bone spur in his neck required surgery on his spinal cord and he was told he would never walk again. Donald was not one to give up, but the doctors made him wait for nine months to try to walk. His father built him a long ramp with rails, and he kept on working on it until he did walk. He calls this his second miracle.

Donald went to Pine Bluff, Ark., to serve as a volunteer in the Watson Chapel School District where he worked with elementary through high school students, teaching sign language classes three days a week. He also taught students at the University of Pine Bluff. He earned two service awards for this work. In 1979, he began work at Howard Memorial Hospital in Biloxi in the purchasing department as a clerk. He was there for more than five years.

An active member of the only deaf Kiwanis in the world (Kiwanis International), he served as vice-president before being installed as president. Donald is also a member of the Biloxi Kiwanis Club. Kiwanis Lt. Gov. Greg Stevens installed Donald as president. Present for the installation was the governor of the Louisiana-Mississippi and West Tennessee District, Richard "Woody" Wood of Pascagoula and his wife, Eva, and Greg's wife and other Kiwanis dignitaries. Also installed were Danny Brody as vice-president; Phyllis Acevedo as treasurer and Yvonne Killegrew as secretary.

Donald is the son of Laura and C.J. Sharpe. His father passed away in 1984, and Laura married Joseph Giametti in 1988. They live in St. Martin. He has four brothers and one sister. Donald's brother, Martin, lives in Mandeville, La., with his wife, Cathy, and they own a sales and marketing firm in New Orleans. Donald's brother, the Rev. Terry Sharpe and wife, Doris, live in Richmond, Va., where he serves as pastor at Hanover Baptist Church. Donald's brother, Fred and wife, Barbara, live in Johnston, R.I., where he is in home construction. Donald's brother, Ronald, and wife Paula and sons live in Panama City, Fla., where he is a manager for Sears. Donald's sister, Laura Ann McCamley, and husband, Dan, live in Waldorf, Md., and she works for the government in Washington, D.C.

Donald can hear a little and has some proficiency in lip reading, but he keeps a small notebook and pen handy in case he and the person he is talking with can't understand each other. His longtime friend and interpreter, Jerry Howard, describes Donald as always being willing to help new signers be better communicators and interpreters.

Donald, who lives in St. Martin, is also treasurer of the Coast chapter of the Mississippi Association of the Deaf. He has taught sign language in Coast schools, such as the Ocean Springs Middle School, and also has taught individuals. Donald is a longtime member of First Baptist Church of Biloxi and has provided sign language classes to members.

Donald has done much to bridge the gap between the hearing impaired and those who can hear. Freelance writer Ada Reid is a grandmother of 12. She writes about seniors and seniors' events for The Sun Herald. Contact her at,

© 2004 The Sun Herald and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.