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October 30, 2008

Jesse Hartley, 93, activist for hearing-impaired

From: Atlanta Journal Constitution - GA, USA - Oct 30, 2008

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Thursday, October 30, 2008

When Jesse Hartley began to lose his hearing in middle age, he realized how difficult it was for deaf people to understand the world around them.

Mr. Hartley became an advocate for captioned television news and more visual information on MARTA trains, among other efforts. In 1992, he was named Deaf Citizen of the Year by a group of Georgia organizations that represent the hearing-impaired.

Mr. Hartley, 93, of Decatur died of congestive heart failure Monday at Walton Regional Medical Center in Monroe, near his son’s home. The memorial service will be 3 p.m. Thursday in the chapel of A.S. Turner & Sons, Decatur, which is in charge of arrangements.

Mr. Hartley was born in Bowman in Elbert County. He joined the U.S. Army and served as part of a medical unit during World War II in the Philippines and other parts of Asia, said his son, Cliff Hartley of Lawrenceville. He reached the rank of master sergeant and earned several medals, including the Bronze Star, his son said.

He worked in the food business in Atlanta for 47 years, managing several grocery stores and then working as a salesman and trainer for Sunshine Biscuits Co. He retired in 1980.

Mr. Hartley served on the board of directors of the Atlanta Masonic Temple and was on the board of his church, East Lake Methodist, and taught Sunday school.

When he was in his 40s and 50s, Mr. Hartley began to lose his hearing, possibly because of a hereditary condition. Eventually, his son said, “we communicated with him primarily using a dry-erase board.”

Mr. Hartley became an outspoken advocate for greater access and information for the hearing-impaired, writing articles and lobbying TV stations to use captions in their news programs.

He served on MARTA’s Elderly and Disabled Access Advisory Committee for 18 years, helping ensure that information about train arrivals and departures was conveyed visually.

Mr. Hartley was an avid reader, especially of books about history or current events, and loved gardening. His home was on a double lot in unincorporated DeKalb County, near Decatur, and much of the garden was designed to attract birds. He also kept a large vegetable garden and grew flowers, his son said.

Mr. Hartley was devoted to his specially trained “hearing dog,” Mia, a longhaired dachshund that had been a show dog before she was trained to help deaf people.

Other survivors include a son, Claude Hartley of Covington; three grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

© 2008 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution