November 15, 2017
Memo To: Executive Officers, Board Members, Chapter & Division Presidents & Others
From: Frank Coppel, President
Positive Note 1631
Greetings Fellow Federationists:
We still have not heard from some of you as to whether you are planning to attend the 2017 Christmas Board Retreat which will be held at Rocky Bottom December 1, 2, and 3.
This will be a busy time since we will be holding two Board meetings beginning with the RBRCCB Board of Directors meeting Saturday morning, December 2, at 9:30 a.m. which will be followed by the NFB of SC Board of Directors meeting on Saturday afternoon at 2:00 p.m.
Saturday evening will be a time for observing the Christmas season, as we sing Christmas carols, fellowship, and sample delicious desserts.
If you wish to participate in the Christmas gift exchange Saturday evening, ladies will need to bring a ladiesÃ¢Â€Â™ gift and men will need to bring a menÃ¢Â€Â™s gift.
The cost of the Christmas gift should be a minimum of $10.
I hope we will have a large turnout for the weekend.
Make plans to be there!
I am very sad to report Jerry Whittle, a longtime leader of the National Federation of the blind passed away Friday, November 10, in Ruston Louisiana.
Jerry began his Federation journey in South Carolina while he was a student at Clemson University during the late 1970Ã¢Â€Â™s.
My first wife, Gail, and I became acquainted with Jerry in 1979 at a Student Division meeting in Columbia at the Federation Center.
We became friends and worked closely together on a number of local and state Federation activities.
Throughout the years, I have had the opportunity to speak to Jerry at NFB national conventions and I have enjoyed attending many of his plays performed by the students from the Louisiana Center for the Blind.
I was very excited for Jerry and his wife, Marilyn, when they received the 2016 Jacobus tenBroek Award from Dr. Maurer during the NFB banquet in recognition of their outstanding work in the field of blindness and their continued desire to encourage blind people Ã¢Â€Âœto live the life they wantÃ¢Â€Â.
There are many other memories I could share regarding Jerry, however, I will conclude my portion of the Positive Note by saying Jerry Whittle was a friend and a colleague who believed very strongly in the potential and abilities of his fellow blind and who worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life of blind people.
The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future.
Every day, we raise the expectations of blind people because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams.
You can live the life you want: blindness is not what holds you back.
Joining me for comments in this Positive Note is the President Emeritus of the NFB of SC.
Here is Dr. Capps.
I was in real shock to be notified by our good friend Marshall Tucker of the death of Jerry Whittle, age 70, occurring last Friday, November 10.
ItÃ¢Â€Â™s my understanding his sudden death was due to an eruption of a cerebral aneurism.
He and his wife Merilynn were residing in Ruston, Louisiana at the time of his death.
ItÃ¢Â€Â™s my understanding Jerry had been retired just a short while ago.
We first met Jerry in the late 1970Ã¢Â€Â™s when we were attempting to organize a chapter in the Oconee County area.
A dinner meeting was held in Westminster on December 3, 1977 and Jerry was in attendance.
Not only was he present for the dinner meeting, he wound up being elected President.
Prior to this dinner meeting, I had talked with Jerry about his discouragement concerning his blindness.
He soon snapped out of his discouragement to become a federationist for life.
He was in the federation for 40 years from December 1977 to November 2017.
Jerry loved Rocky Bottom having served as the first voluntary caretaker in 1979.
He used room 5 in Osterneck Cottage which became known as the Oconee Room.
Demonstrating his acting skills, he participated in the Ã¢Â€ÂœGlass MenagerieÃ¢Â€Â written by Tennessee Williams, which was performed by an all blind cast in the historic Dr. Samuel Miller Lawton Hall.
A happy incident occurred involving Jerry when he accidentally got two inches too close to the edge of the stage, but he hopped up so quickly I hardly noticed the difference.
Jerry worked at the Federation Center a short while but recognizing the need for a maximum education, he graduated from Clemson University and subsequently received his Masters from the University of Tennessee.
By that time Jerry had many successful blind acquaintances including Joanne Wilson who headed the Louisiana Center for the Blind.
It was these contacts which would mold the highly successful career for Jerry.
He also became the First Vice President of the NFB of Louisiana.
He wrote a play which was performed at the NFB national convention which provided much needed funding.
Jerry was known nationally for his federation activity.
He would go on to be the recipient of the highest NFB award at the 2016 NFB convention banquet, the Jacobus tenBroek Award.
As he often did, he gave credit to others, whereas it was apparent he was primarily responsible for their success.
Even during the presentation of the Jacobus tenBroek Award at the NFB convention in 2016, Jerry gave credit to others including myself.
We are very appreciative of this incident.
While we certainly will muss Jerry, he had been a beloved figure to his friends nationally.
We extend condolences to his lovely wife Merilynn who was always at his side.
Final Thought: Be thankful for being able to live the life you want because of the Federation which laid the groundwork since 1944.
Jerry Whittle was born on January 10, 1947 in Seneca, South Carolina, and passed away on November 10, 2017 surrounded by family and friends.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Delzie Cleo McGuffin Whittle and Ambus Ã¢Â€ÂœPatÃ¢Â€Â Whittle; his sister, Patsy Louise Whittle; and by his first wife, Karin Winkle Whittle.
He is survived by his dear wife Merilynn Whittle; daughter Christina Ann Richardson Pedro and spouse John Pedro II; son John Bee Richardson and spouse Laurie Ann Lusk ; grandchildren Xavier Pedro, Giana Pedro, Tessa Boyle, Jonathan Richardson, and Sara Elizabeth Richardson; several great-grandchildren; nephews and niece Roger Ã¢Â€ÂœDaleÃ¢Â€Â Chrisley, Danus Chrisley, Marilyn Jane Ã¢Â€ÂœJanieÃ¢Â€Â Chrisley Davis; brother-in-law Miles Ã¢Â€ÂœSmokyÃ¢Â€Â Chrisley; cousins Mary Venaas, Joan Dunlap, Jimmy Powell, Wayne Powell, Ronnie Phillips, and many others; and the countless students to whom he served as a mentor and father figure.
Mr. Whittle was a proud graduate of Clemson University, where he earned a degree in English, and from the University of Tennessee in Knoxsville where he earned a masterÃ¢Â€Â™s degree in Creative Writing.
While he held various oc’cup’ations throughout his lifetime, his passion for language and literacy led him to teach braille at the Louisiana Center for the Blind for over three decades.
He worked with over 1,000 students, giving them the gift of braille literacy, and taught countless teachers and blindness professionals that braille literacy is a key for success for blind children and adults.
Through his work in the National Federation of the Blind, Mr. Whittle was also able to transform countless other lives and serve in many leadership positions, both in Louisiana and nationally.
His signature sense of humor, his willingness to share his life experiences, and his ability to establish genuine connections with people from all walks of life positioned him as an icon in the blind community.
Jerry loved baseball, gardening, reading, writing, and bluegrass.
He often persuaded Merilynn to bake him cornbread or apple pie, two of his favorites.
He was an engaging public speaker, a gifted braille teacher, a prolific author and playwright, a loyal friend, and a deeply faithful Christian.
Yet, the essence of his life is only partially captured by these qualities.
The life that Jerry Whittle led was one of sacrifice, service, and spirit.
With his incomparable wit, and his unwavering devotion to the people that he loved, the influence that Jerry Whittle has had on this world will undoubtedly ring energetically for generations to come.
The writings of William Faulkner always remained close to Mr. WhittleÃ¢Â€Â™s heart. Ã¢Â€ÂœYou cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.Ã¢Â€Â With these words from his beloved author, we begin to say good-bye to our teacher, mentor, and friend.
Beyond this, these words remind us to live with the courage and determination that Mr. Whittle both embodied and challenged each of us to achieve in our own lives.
Visitation is on Monday, November 13, 2017, from 5:00-7:00 pm at Kilpatrick Funeral Home in Ruston, Louisiana.
A second visitation and burial will be held in South Carolina, with visitation and services held at Duckett-Robinson Funeral Home in Central, South Carolina.
Visitation will be from 5:00 Ã¢Â€Â“ 7:00pm on November 18th and again on November 19th from 1:00-2:00pm.
The funeral services will be held at 2:00pm on November 19th.
He will be buried at Memory Gardens in Clemson, South Carolina.
In lieu of flowers, you may make a donation to the Buddy Program of the Louisiana Center for the Blind at www.louisianacenter.org.