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2003: Hello from Singapore
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2006: Well, that was Short & Sweet
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18 October 2014
We went to see The Miracle Worker at the Woodland Opera House tonight. It was a very good production and the young woman who played Helen did an excellent job.
I never see this show without thinking of our friend Georgia Griffith, our own Helen Keller, who died in 2005. As my friend, Tom Sims wrote in an article called "The First Woman of Cyberspace," She graduated cum laude from Capital University where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She had been a music teacher, could play 12 instruments knew at least 7 languages. She was featured in Discover and People magazines, conversed online with the Vice President, had an exhibit in the Smithsonian Institution and was inducted into the Ohio Womens Hall of Fame. She single-handedly designed the IBM Special Needs Data Base and held the highest certification as a Braille music proof-reader for the Library of Congress. For eighteen years she managed some of the busiest and most volatile forums on CompuServe with a membership of thousands. She was a woman of deep personal faith.
(I encourage reading all of Tom's article for a real in-depth view of who Georgia was.)
After corresponding with Georgia through the CompuServe Issues forum, I met her in 1997 when she came to San Francisco for a conference of Braille readers and she invited Walt and me to be her guests at a banquet, along with several other friends.
Later that year, she was honored by the Smithsonian Museum for her contribution to information technology for the handicapped ("Handicapped" was her preferred term...she frequently said "I'm not disabled; I'm handicapped, like in golf.")
We were able to travel to D.C. to be with her for the Smithsonian honors. She was recognized along with about 30 other people in one of the most bizarre ceremonies I've ever seen where the recipients were kept standing in the blazing sun while the dignitaries partied in a covered area with hors d'oeuvres.
The way they awarded the medals to the recipients was strange in that they read their names off like a graduation ceremony, with two or three different people giving out the medals, but you couldn't tell who was who, or who had done what.
Then there was the "banquet" on one of the porches of the Smithsonian building. The tables looked lovely but the food were all in colored Chinese take-out-like boxes. It was as if they had gone to the Dollar Store for food. Each box held something different, but there was absolutely no cohesion whatsoever. You might have had chow mein or cold slaw or a cookie. Nothing was labeled and you didn't know what you were picking. I've never seen anything so weird.
A reporter came to interview Georgia and couldn't seem to get it into her mind that Georgia could not hear her.
But it was a unique event and I'm glad we were there. And after we went to see the exhibit about Georgia in the museum, we met with Ohio Senator Mike DeWine.
I found out later that he and I disagreed on most social issues, but it was nice being in his office while they met each other. I later wrote him a note about the death of his son (who had been killed in an auto accident), and told him and Paul and David. He sent back a lovely hand-written letter, so I kind of forgive him for his stance against gay marriage. Sort of.
Georgia could speak, because she spoke for more than 30 years before losing her hearing. You either drew words into her hand and she would answer you by speaking or you sat at a machine called a versibraille. You typed on a regular keyboard and it raised pins on her keyboard so she could read your comment in braille and then she answered you by speaking.
I watched her converse with people in 3 different languages one night.
Walt and I visited her with my mother when Jeri was doing summer stock in Ohio and we stayed at Georgia's house. She lived independently, but relied on her sister for everything. She had also lost her balance and so could no longer stand at a stove and cook, and her house had hand rails everywhere, that she either hung onto, or she crawled around the house.
She had several computers in her office, but only one monitor and when I asked to use a computer, she crawled around the snakepit of electric cords to find the one that would connect the monitor. It was an amazing sight to watch how expertly she knew all of those cords.
I remember getting up before sunrise on the morning after we stayed there and seeing Georgia sitting on the couch, just waiting for her sister to arrive with breakfast. It took me a second to realize that of course she would not have turned on a light because she lived in darkness.
She may have lived in physical darkness, but that brain was as bright
as Einstein's. She was one of the most memorable people I ever had the pleasure of
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