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James Gashel, his wife Betsy Zaborowski, and
Dr. Jernigan outside the Jernigan home

James Gashel

Baltimore, Maryland

September 14, 1998

Dear Dr. Jernigan:

I'm not sure when it was that I last wrote a letter to you, but I think it may have been as long as thirty years ago back in Iowa. I guess this is so because I have had the honor to work by your side each and every day for the better part of this time. Now I must write to say good-bye.

It is an understatement to say that this is not easy. You have spent your entire life giving to us, and now we have only a few weeks left and very little that we can give to you in return. In the short term, I guess that just giving you time finally to be at peace is best.

Beyond that you should be comforted in knowing that the purpose to which you devoted your life is now shared among tens of thousands of us. It is true that your voice will be silent and your hand will not be on the tiller, but the course will be as steady as it has ever been.

You gave this assurance to Dr. tenBroek thirty years ago, and now we give it to you. One thing you know for sure is that the National Federation of the Blind is as strong as it has ever been. The trust that we now have is to keep it that way and to build on the progress you helped to make. Please know that this will happen. You have done everything you could possibly have hoped to do to make it that way.

You have said that there is no force on earth that can stop our progress. When you first said those words many years ago, it may have been a matter of faith, but now it has become a matter of fact. Through the patience of your teaching and the example of your life, the fire of your commitment to blind people has ignited an eternal flame which we will fuel and in our turn pass along.

So, Dr. Jernigan, as it has been during the journey of your life so far, it will continue to be during the journey you are now making. In ways that really count, you are not alone. I will miss your strength and your wisdom, but I promise you that my commitment to the mission of your life will always remain true.

Yours with thanks for all that you have meant and mean.

James Gashel