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- Daily Chronicle : DeKalb County Life
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This man's mission is to help fund a cure for blindness
By Barry Schrader.................................January
Corneille is a man with a mission. Legally blind for many years
and still practicing law in DeKalb, he finds the time to give
talks on how to cope with failing eyesight and also raise funds
for the Foundation Fighting Blindness.
Stricken with retinitis pigmentosa in childhood, a degenerative
disease that slowly takes away your sight, Corneille has managed
to lead a near-normal life for more than 40 years. But in the
past three years, he has decided to help others with similar
loss of vision, as well as raise money through VisionWalk to
fund more research on possible cures for blindness. He set fundraising
records with his DeKalb County team of walkers the past two years
and this year has been named chairman of Chicago VisonWalk, which
happens in June.
Despite his loss of vision, he still follows sports and has season
tickets to the NIU basketball games, and until recently also
held Huskies football season tickets. He and his wife Pam have
two daughters, Megan, a senior at DeKalb High School, and Jillian,
age 20. They have lived in the same home since 1992, which he
says makes it easier to get around with familiar surroundings.
His biggest problem when taking his cane to walk to work is low-hanging
tree limbs and people who dont shovel their sidewalks
he says, so he takes to walking in the street at times. He is
close to his law office, so has the option of walking in good
weather. He was with the same law firm from 1984-2005 and then,
due to his vision, decided to practice on his own. He also decided
to attend the Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education
in Chicago so he could better learn to use his cane, learn Braille,
and improve his computer and typing skills. He says the latest
computer technology enables him to feed documents into the scanner
and the computer reads them aloud to him. The same is true for
his e-mail and he answered my e-mail queries promptly and with
He brought some of the latest aids helpful to vision-impaired
people to a recent talk at Oak Crest DeKalb Area Retirement Center.
A talking cell phone that informs him who is calling verbally
and dials numbers he reads into it, a talking wristwatch that
announces the time and a handheld telescope to help read street
signs and see traffic signals for those not totally blind. He
demonstrated a talking calculator, a CCTV screen
device to greatly enlarge documents and books, and an Amigo brand
magnifier costing $800 that greatly magnifies reading material
and even takes photos of prescription labels and phone book numbers
for enlargement and saving.
Corneille is also a fan of books on tape supplied by a nonprofit
group through the mail, much like Netflix is to movie watchers.
He met Chicago sports personality Rich King and his late wife
Maggie, who was also blind, suffering from Ushers syndrome,
which also affects your hearing. After Maggie died in 2002 from
ovarian cancer, her husband wrote a book titled My Maggie,
which tells of her courage and their love for each other. Corneille
is encouraging the purchase of the book because of the wonderful
love story it tells and also because King is giving one
third of the profits to fight blindness.
He has spoken to some three dozen groups in the area and welcomes
invitations to spread his message and help others who have similar
sight difficulties. You can find him in the phone book. I can
attest to the fact he delivers a very compelling message.
POSTSCRIPT: The recent column on the Northern Illinois Farm Show
generated several e-mail comments and other responses. John Horn,
DeKalb County Extension director, clarified the hula hoop mystery.
He said the hoop was actually meant to be a soybean counter.
Farmers are to lay the hoop in the field and count the number
of plants/beans inside the hoop, which helps compute a yield
for the entire field. He also advised me there were yardsticks
being given away at the show, as well as corn kernel-shaped stress
sponges. Next year, Ill get there earlier the last day
and find those freebees!
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115