Photo of Joanne Pelzer (51130 bytes)
Joanne Pelzer

A Stalwart Retires

by Marc Maurer


In 1978, as members of the Federation know, the National Federation of the Blind moved its headquarters office from Des Moines, Iowa, to Baltimore, Maryland. The National Center for the Blind was acquired in that year, and the remodeling which was necessary to make it usable was commenced. In the spring of 1979 we moved in. Within a very few days of the moment when we occupied the National Center, Mrs. Joanne Pelzer was hired. She was the first of many people that we sought to assist in the work of the Federation in our newly renovated Baltimore headquarters. Mrs. Pelzer worked for us from 1979 until the winter of 1998. She gave unstintingly of her time, her energy, and her commitment. During the time that she was a part of our staff, she developed health problems largely from diabetes. Nevertheless, she continued to give of her strength and her loyalty. She was always quiet but always prepared to offer what she had. A generous and a deeply religious person, Mrs. Pelzer could be counted upon.

When we moved to Baltimore, we did not know what the future would hold for us. We did not know whether we could expect support from our new environment. We did not know about the people of Baltimore, Maryland. In Mrs. Pelzer we found an example of the goodness that we came to respect and deeply appreciate. We had been led to believe that the people of the East Coast are standoffish. We learned from Mrs. Pelzer that the rumor was without foundation.

In the fall of 1998 Mrs. Pelzer's health problems prevented her from working. Complications of diabetes became severe, and Mrs. Pelzer lost considerable energy and much of her sight. In December she retired from active work within the Federation. However, she did not retire from the organization. She is still a member of the Baltimore chapter, and she is planning soon to become a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Long ago it was said about the programs Dr. Jernigan had created that, if a person must be blind, it is better to be blind in the place where Dr. Jernigan's programs exist. We regret that Mrs. Pelzer has become blind, but we intend to support those who have worked so hard and given so much to the Federation. We will ensure that Mrs. Pelzer gets the rehabilitation she needs. She is the first of the stalwarts who came to be part of the family in Baltimore, and we wish her all the best.