Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sixty years of dedication to the visually impaired

Edna (Keough) Mulrooney has dedicated more than six decades of her life to helping blind and visually impaired individuals live their lives to the fullest.

Mulrooney was recently recognized by the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB), Newfoundland and Labrador Division for 60 years of volunteer service with the organization.

She began her career as registrar with the Newfoundland and Labrador Division of the Canadian National Institute of the Blind (CNIB) on April 1, 1946.

“Mr. Redmond Kelly who lived in my neighbourhood on Victoria Street — he was totally blind and a very social person, as well. We always had a little chat if we met in the store or on the street. He asked me if I’d like to work with the CNIB,” Mulrooney recalls.

In order to ensure blind people were given an opportunity to contribute to society, the CNIB ran a mop factory, a broom factory and a mattress factory in those days, Mulrooney says.

“The blind people also did basketry and handicrafts. They’d lace wallets and covers for books.”
In addition to her duties as registrar, Mulrooney accepted numerous special assignments which brought her into closer contacts with blind and visually impaired children.

She escorted several students travelling between their homes in rural Newfoundland to the School for the Blind in Halifax.

“I travelled from here to Halifax in June with a couple of nurses and the welfare officer. We went to the School for the Blind (in Halifax) and then we came by train (from) Port-Aux-Basques with all the blind children. Then, in September, I’d leave St. John’s and go to Argentia and pick up all the blind children (along the way) who were going back to the school.”

Mulrooney recalls her first trip with the blind children occurred in September 1949.

“I always remember that I left on the train at eight o’clock in the morning and arrived in Argentia three o’clock in the afternoon. The train stopped at just about everybody’s back door,” she says, laughing.

As most of the travel was by coastal steamer, it gave Mulrooney an opportunity to get to know the children and their families in the rural communities.

Mulrooney’s travel with the blind children soon inspired her to help other special needs children.
“In June, the director of child welfare asked my boss if I could pick up the deaf and speech-impaired children who came down from the School for the Deaf in Montreal to Port-Aux-Basques. I’d pick them up and take them to their homes.”

Mulrooney learned sign language in order to communicate with the deaf and speech-impaired children.

While these duties weren’t in her job description, she has fond memories of reuniting the children with their ap- preciative parents.

“There were two children from English Harbour West. Their father was a merchant there. They were beautiful children, but they couldn’t speak. But, no matter what time we reached English Harbour West, their father would come down and invite me up for a meal.”

Another special assignment Mulrooney happily undertook was providing practical nursing services to blind people living at the CNIB residence in St. John’s.

She also spent time visiting blind individuals in hospitals and in their homes.

While she looked forward to the time she spent with blind and visually impaired Newfoundlanders, in 1955 Mulrooney met one special blind woman who became a role model for millions of people.
Mulrooney was representing the CNIB at a national conference at the time.

“Helen Keller was at the banquet. She met everybody and she was the guest speaker. It was a wonderful experience for me to meet her.”

After 13 years working full-time with the CNIB, Mulrooney resigned her paid position in order to devote her time to her young family.

However, her role as wife to her late husband, Capt. Edward Mulrooney, and mother to her three sons (Sean, Brian and Fabian) was enriched by her continuous volunteer service.

One wall in Mulrooney’s home is covered with local, provincial and national certificates, plaques and other awards highlighting her volunteer service with the blind.

In 1982, she received the award of merit gold medal and was inducted as a honorary lifetime member of the national CCB.

The citation reads, “We, the council, are pleased to present this award in recognition of your dedicated life of service which has earned you the love and respect of blind persons throughout Newfoundland and Labrador and indeed the esteem of all blind Canadians who will learn about your generous commitment through the presentation of this award.”

In the true spirit of volunteerism, Mulrooney, who recently celebrated her 84th birthday, says she got much more from her experiences than she gave.

“Volunteering makes me feel wonderful. I often wonder what would have been down the other road for me had I not gone to work with the CNIB. … I give God thanks every day for the gifts he gave me to work with the blind and the visually impaired. They’re wonderful people and they’re all my friends today.”


Post a Comment

<< Home