Jane Strohmeier and I met around fifteen years ago when Jane joined the American Council of the Blind. ACB is a national, state, and local organization of blind and sighted people working together to make a better world for us all. Our ACB members believe: "Something there is that doesn't love a wall," rather than "Good fences make good neighbors." Jane enjoys playing Chopin on the piano, pieces that she learned as a child. In 1995, Jane started taking piano lessons again, learning popular songs like "Alley Cat" as well as perfecting her classical repertoire. Jane also always had an interest in art, beginning as a child. She remembers one art teacher in college who never made one positive comment about her work. Well, I guess the joke is on that teacher. Jane has recently won five prizes for her art work.
A few ACB members are owners of dogs. When Jane walks about with her dog Lex, a few observers may do their tut-tutting, "I feel sorry for people like her; she must not have much of a life. What a shame to end up like that!" However, Jane's intended message is quite different. If one were to look closer, one would see that Jane is warm, friendly, and personable as well as being skilled in music and art. Jane is adventurous and makes wise choices, a good person to know. She feels good about who she is when she walks confidently into Grace Episcopal Church or into her water aerobics class at the YMCA. Jane no longer drives a car and no longer reads sheet music, but she has made many new friends and has found new ways of enjoying her life.
Jane Strohmeier has been losing her vision gradually since the 1970s as a result of macular degeneration. By 1988, she could no longer drive. At first, she felt lost and alone and stuck in her house. Then, she made a decision: she began venturing out and meeting other people whom she in the normal course of matters would never meet.
One very important person she met was Mr. George Coorey, a professional musician, who soon gave her piano lessons, and her piano repertoire took on a new sound. Neither George nor Jane could read a scrap of music, but their skill in playing and their love of music jumped over that little obstacle, and they delighted many with their performances.
Jane also learned that two dimensional art was not the only kind of art. Jane took sculpture lessons at the Clovernook Center for the Blind. In October, she will travel to Louisville to display her sculpture of "Reginald," an aristocratic giraffe and collect her prize money and award for winning second place in the American Printing House for the Blind InSights Art Competition.
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