The Braille Monitor                                                                                                     February 2005

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Birthday Honors

by Donald Morris

Shirley and Don Morris at Dick Edlund's birthday party
Shirley and Don Morris at Dick Edlund's birthday party

From the Editor: Those of us who go back a few years know Dick Edlund as one of the most colorful and hardest-working Federation leaders ever to grace the organization. He has been retired from national leadership for more than a decade now, and many people have joined the Federation family during these years. These folks may not have done more than hear Dick's name. The following report by Don Morris of Maryland will bring a smile to the faces of those who know Dick and should pique the interest of those who have not yet met him. This is what Don says:

For thirty-five years I've been waiting for Dick Edlund to get old. Based on his vitality and good health, which he demonstrated at his eightieth birthday party, I guess I will just have to keep waiting. More than one hundred well-wishers (Federationists, friends, family, and neighbors) gathered at the Delaware Lodge Masonic Hall in Kansas City, Kansas, to share memories and good wishes with Dick on Saturday, December 4, 2004.

Born December 5, 1924, Dick can boast a Federation career that spans five decades. He was long-time president and mentor of the Kansas Federation of the Blind, which he helped organize. Following the pattern established for state affiliates, this organization became the NFB of Kansas. Dick joined the NFB board of directors as NFB treasurer in 1974 and served until 1988. He returned to the board for two terms, beginning in 1992.

During his many years as owner and proprietor of Edlund's Hardware, Dick could be found behind the counter or, just as likely, on top of a ladder, or measuring and cutting custom glass for his customers.

Dick has also owned his own airplanes and an airport to go with them. He owned and managed a consignment auction barn at which he alleges to have sold the very hatchet with which George Washington cut down the cherry tree. Dick said the hatchet was so old that it had had four new heads and eleven new handles. The auction barn was as much entertainment as ongoing garage sale. Upon his retirement Dick decided to take it easy by running for and winning a seat in the Kansas legislature. Representative Edlund defeated an incumbent opponent by a vote margin of three to two. In his next two elections Dick ran unopposed. He served in the Kansas House of Representatives with distinction. He chaired many committees and was the successful sponsor of the Kansas Braille bill. Dick's oversight of services for the blind in Kansas helped to bring about many necessary and positive changes.

Several of the well-wishers at Dick's surprise birthday party were legislative colleagues. Among the many congratulatory and laudatory letters and cards Dick received, two of the most heartwarming were letters from Governor Kathleen Sebelius, whose note follows this article, and NFB President Marc Maurer. Here is the text of President Maurer's letter:

November 17, 2004

Dear Dick:

It is a great joy for me to wish you a happy birthday on your eightieth. We have traveled many miles together, and we have fought side by side on many battlefronts. We looked the director of the Utah workshop right in the eye, and we went together to pound on the governor's desk. We have given NAC a piece of our mind, and we have used up a lot of shoe leather in the process. We have shared stories and felt together the awe that the Federation can bring.

We have shared joy and sorrow; we have encountered the bitter wind on the picket line; we have endured the heat of a Washington summer. Through it all we have found strength and commitment in each other, and I am proud to call you a colleague and a friend. You have been a member of this movement for more than three decades, and my life and the lives of many others have been enriched by your presence and your heart. I look forward to the decades to come, and I wish you the happiest of birthdays.

With love and affection,
Marc Maurer, President
National Federation of the Blind

Dick Edlund and Pila Mahoney cut a giant birthday cake.
Dick Edlund and Pila Mahoney cut a giant birthday cake.

Dick and his well-wishers enjoyed a sumptuous dinner. And of course the meal was topped off with a huge birthday cake. The only down side was that the fire department would not permit us to light all those candles. Thanking all who attended and who had sent cards and letters, Dick extended an open invitation to join him at his ninetieth birthday.

To further the celebration of his birthday, the next day Dick and Pila (Mahoney) flew to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to tour and to enjoy a visit with Pila's sister. Congratulations, Dick, and best wishes for your next decade.

Here is the text of the note from the governor of Kansas. She and Dick were in the legislature together. This is what she says:

November 16, 2004

Dear Dick,

Happy eightieth birthday, Dick.

It is my honor and pleasure as Governor of the State of Kansas to send you warm congratulations on this, your eightieth birthday. I send you best wishes for a day filled with joy.

I join your family and friends in wishing you a happy birthday, and many more happy years to come.

Sincerely,

Kathleen Sebelius, Governor of the State of Kansas

[Handwritten note] I enjoyed our time in the House together. You are a great Kansan, and I hope you live for another eighty years.

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