IM this article to a friend!

August 23, 2005

Deaf couple's story lovingly preserved

From: Akron Beacon Journal, OH - Aug 23, 2005

Daughter, granddaughter write book; personal tales can have value for others By David Giffels

The people in the book aren't famous. The book is self-published. It will be of greater interest to the relatives of the writers than to anyone else.

But it is important.

I attended a reading and book signing Monday for the release of Out of Their Silence: A Memoir of Philip and Julia, the story of a deaf couple who settled in Akron in 1920 and raised a family here.

The book was written by Luella Cordier and her daughter, Kristine Cordier Karnezis. Luella is the daughter of Philip and Julia Heupel, who met and fell in love at Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C., then married and moved here for work in the tire factories.

I met Luella Cordier about eight years ago, when I was researching Akron's rubber history for the Wheels of Fortune series and book I co-wrote with Steve Love.

Her father had worked at Goodyear nearly 40 years as a tire builder. When the Heupels moved to Akron after World War I, this was the fastest growing city in the United States. Because the rubber companies were especially open to hiring deaf workers, the Rubber City earned another nickname: ''Crossroads of the Deaf.''

In those years, Akron was believed to have the largest hearing-impaired population in the country.

Cordier, also a journalist, told me at the time she was working on a book about her parents' lives. The former editor of the Kent-Ravenna Record-Courier, she had written columns about her family and about the lives of deaf people. She wanted to preserve her family history in a more formal way.

The more I've written about local history, the more I've heard from people who want to do something similar. And the more I've researched local history, the more I recognize the value of such documents.

Out of Their Silence is a very personal and poignant story of a college romance that grew into a lifelong love story. The book's 150 pages are illustrated with family photographs, and the memoir is strikingly personal -- it even includes Philip Heupel's recipe for fudge. It draws extensively from the journals Julia and Philip kept and letters they wrote.

From Julia's diary, Sept. 27, 1916, shortly after arriving at Gallaudet:

Met Madame Peet (dean of women) about whom much good and bad had been told me. My first impression of her was the whiteness of her hair and of the great white way displayed to me free of charge when she grinned.

She brought in a girl dressed in green and told her I was to be her roommate.

For all the personal detail, however, this is also an important document for its insight into the lives of a deaf couple in Akron.

Cordier worked on the book off and on for 15 years. After spending much of her life in Kent, she recently moved to Rockynol Retirement Community in Akron. Three years ago, she asked her daughter for help finishing the book.

''One day I was thinking -- I'm getting older; I might die before I get this finished,'' she said Monday after addressing a crowd of about 40 people at Rockynol.

Karnezis, her daughter, lives in Portland, Ore. An attorney who works as a legal writer, she helped organize and formalize the material her mother had gathered.

She remembered a college history course in which she had read books of ordinary people's lives. That gave her a context for her own family's story.

''I really think it's a way of getting to know the people in your family as more than just relatives,'' Karnezis said.

When Steve Love and I were working on Wheels of Fortune, we heard from Don Hicks, a local attorney and amateur historian who said he'd thought many times of running a tape recorder while listening to a friend whose father had been an assistant to tire baron Harvey S. Firestone.

That led Steve to write, ''for every story that became part of Wheels of Fortune, there are dozens more... that remain unrecorded. They could be lost if someone does not record and save them, even if it is a singular exercise, for one family only.''

I recently read some personal history essays written by residents of area nursing homes that had a similar effect, and that reinforced how important personal memories can be when they're saved for others to read.

For other people living in the same place, these stories provide texture, an extended version of the ritual of storytelling around the tribal fires and a way for all of us to put our own lives into context.

So, while Out of Their Silence is of greatest value to the Heupels' descendants, it's also of value to those of us who share the city that welcomed them nearly a century ago.

David Giffels' column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. He can be reached at 330-996-3572 or at

© 2005 Beacon Journal and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.