The Braille Monitor March, 2002
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Mabel Nading, a Good Friend
by Ramona Walhof
Mabel Nading, July 26,1914, to January 7, 2002
From the Editor: On January 7, 2002, Mabel Nading died quietly in a nursing home in Iowa. She was eighty-seven and had outlived her husband by a number of years. She had no surviving family members, but she left many, many friends, colleagues and former students, who treasured her friendship and her devotion to teaching Braille. One of those friends was Ramona Walhof, with whom Mrs. Nading wrote a Braille-teaching text still used today, since it is possible to teach oneself the Braille code using this book and the cassette that goes with it. Ramona Walhof is Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind. Here is Mrs. Walhof's recollection of Mabel Nading:
I wish I could remember all the stories Mabel told, and I wish I had heard them all. She loved to tell how it was for blind people when she was a child and young adult, and she had a good memory. Even though my recollection of Mabel doesn't go back that far, there is much I can tell about her.
She was a member of the Federation for sixty years. Her first National Convention was in 1942 in Des Moines. Mabel remembered when blind people were hired to work in factories during World War II. They were then laid off at the end of the war when the veterans came home. She recalled people who were supposed to provide services to the blind in the 40's and early 50's but who took it upon themselves to do marriage and other sorts of counseling that we regard today as inappropriate.
Her husband Gene was a vendor for twenty years or so, while Mabel first worked as a Dictaphone transcriber. She used a British form of Braille shorthand written on tape with a one‑cell six‑key writer. She was first hired by Dr. Jernigan as a Dictaphone typist, probably in 1959. Because her skill in reading and writing Braille was excellent, she was promoted to become the Braille teacher in the Orientation and Adjustment Center. When I was a student in 1962, I took lessons in Braille shorthand from Mrs. Nading and have used much of what I learned ever since.
Before long she had memorized the Braille textbooks she used and could follow word for word what several students were reading while she crocheted. She made capes and afghans for friends, many of whom still have the afghans. She also made many kinds of candy at Christmas time. She would spread fudge, pralines, divinity, and I can't remember them all, out on a table in the Braille Room and invite staff and students to drop in and enjoy it. The candy lasted two or three days, and no one was shy about helping himself or herself.
Mrs. Nading loved to travel and was curious about new places and ideas. One of the high points of her life was her trip with Jan Ray to Europe in the 1970's to the international meeting of the International Federation of the Blind.
When the student load was heavy in the 1970's, I also taught Braille in the Iowa Commission for the Blind Orientation and Adjustment Center. Both Mrs. Nading and I wanted a better textbook, so we wrote one, Beginning Braille for Adults. It was produced on the press in the Library, but we helped to collate the pages. I'll never forget Mrs. Nading's pride at the speed with which her students were able to learn all the Braille symbols and begin reading library books. One student learned the code in three weeks, and that became the goal for others. Of course Mabel and I found mistakes in our book, and we dreamed of writing a corrected edition, but it never happened..
When Dr. Jernigan asked her to take charge of the NFB Information Desk at the National Convention sometime in the 1960's, I believe, she was reluctant to do it for fear she would not be up to the task. As he did with many others, Dr. Jernigan talked her into it, and she was completely able to do the work. She continued to carry out this responsibility for twenty years and was conscientious and proud of her work.
Her skill in Braille was outstanding, but it was only one of her accomplishments. The person I remember was a hard‑working, enthusiastic woman, a friend to many, and a teacher to hundreds.
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