Kenneth Jernigan, November 13, 1926, October 12, 1998
This entire issue is devoted to remembering and celebrating the life and work of our deeply loved President Emeritus, Kenneth Jernigan. The November, 1998, issue described in words and pictures his funeral which took place on October 15. On December 5 well over 600 people from across North America and around the world gathered for a service of recollection and celebration, which began at 1:00 p.m. in the International Ballroom of the Omni Hotel in Baltimore and ended at 5:00 p.m.
Steve Hastalis plays the flute before the memorial service.
As people filed into the room, Steve Hastalis of our Chicago Chapter was playing his flute quietly. Steve plays beautifully, and, following such favorites as "Climb Every Mountain," "To Dream the Impossible Dream," and "Amazing Grace," the final selection was "Glory, Glory, Federation." Then, promptly at one, President Maurer opened the service with the words: "As Dr. Jernigan, who brought us all to this meeting, has frequently said, `Federation meetings start on time.'" He then introduced Father Gregory Paul, the pastor of St. Joseph's Monastery Church and the Jernigans' close friend, to give the invocation. After that a stream of men and women who had known Dr. Jernigan came to the platform to remember this man who changed our lives and altered the face of work with the blind in this nation and, in significant measure, around the world. Many of those tributes and recollections appear in the following pages. Many more letters and reflections are also included in this memorial issue. Taken together they begin to suggest the energy, the creativity, and the humanity of this man who dared to dream and taught us to dream as well and who led us in the march to make those dreams reality.
One of the first people to speak was U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes of Maryland, whose remarks in the Congressional Record appear elsewhere in this issue. Gary Magarrell, Vice President of Strategic Planning, represented the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and Penny Hartin spoke on behalf of the World Blind Union. Near the close of the afternoon Lloyd Rasmussen sang the "Technology Song" that moved Dr. Jernigan at last summer's convention, and Tom Bickford accompanied him on the guitar. One of the day's final speakers was Camelia Sadat, daughter of assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. She drew parallels between her father's and Dr. Jernigan's qualities of greatness and their willingness to sacrifice everything to bring about their vision of a better world.
Federationists seated at the back of the ballroom listen
intently to speakers at the memorial service.
One of the closing events of the afternoon was the recital of the Jewish Kaddish for the dead led by Dr. Harold Snider as the audience stood in rapt silence. Then Dr. Maurer quietly read several lines from Longfellow's poem "The Day Is Done":
And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.
Since the ballroom was required immediately for another function, the audience swiftly emptied the hall and boarded busses either to visit the grave site or to travel directly to the National Center for the Blind. Hundreds filed past the grave, which was illuminated and had been decked with greens, holly, and red roses. One of those who made that pilgrimage was Barbara Baack, President of the Southern Alameda County Chapter of the NFB of California. As Federationists stood quietly at the graveside, Barbara raised her harmonica to her lips and quietly played "May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You." Those present agreed that it was a wonderful moment of shared blessing and intention.
Barbara Baack plays "May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You"
on her harmonica at Dr. Jernigan's Grave.
Meanwhile at the National Center guests were making their way to the first floor of the Barney Street wing, where a large space had just been refurbished and where enough tables for every one to be seated had been set up. Soft drinks were available, and servers circulated with hors d'oeuvres. Shortly after six a delicious but unpretentious buffet dinner was served to the entire crowd.
After dinner brief tours of the facility were available for those interested in taking them. By shortly after nine everyone was on the way back to the hotel or on to other engagements. The day had been memorable. Together we had celebrated the life of the man who had counseled and led and loved us during his entire adult life. We returned to our homes to take up the challenge he left us: to conduct our lives with confidence and hope and to pass on these gifts to those who come after us.