Cheerful Earful News


Hello all!


I hope everyone has had a wonderful winter. I am glad that spring is here as it brings warm weather and new growths.


It sounds as if the Burkeville Lodge for the Blind is already planning on having a busy season this year. I hope to get to see many of you at the Lodge this season.


Even though there is no longer a Richmond Chapter of the Virginia Association for the Workers for the Blind, the Virginia Association of the Workers for the Blind is still going strong. The VAWB will continue many of the Richmond Chapters function such as fundraising and trips.


We have had a loss of a member in the passing of Richard Speights and he will be missed. We also had some members’ family members pass as well as a former member. Prayers go out to all families and deepest sympathy in their loss.


“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much,” Helen Keller.




Carol Thomas, Editor




April 21, 2017 – VAWB Board Meeting at 7:30 pm.


April 22, 2017 – VAWB Annual Yard Sale 8:00 am – 2:00 pm.


April 22, 2017 – Motorcycle Rally.


May 26, 2017 – May 29, 2017 – Memorial Day Weekend.


June 9, 2017 – June 11, 2017 – Annual VAWB Meeting Weekend. Meeting Saturday June 10, 2017 at 10:00 am.


June 20 – 22, 2017 – Blind Skills Retreat (Tentative Private Event).


July 1, 2017 – July 4, 2017 – July 4th Weekend.


July 14, 2017 – July 16, 2017 – Stephenson Family Reunion (Private Event).


July 28, 2017 – July 30, 2017 – Saunders Family Reunion (Private Event).


August 4, 2017 – August 6, 2017 – Hampton School Alumni (Margaret Holmes Coordinator, Private Event).


August 7, 2017 – August 9, 2017 – Lynchburg Craft Group (Carolyn Sue Bowling Coordinator, Private Event).


September 1, 2017 – September 4, 2017 – Labor Day Weekend. VAWB Annual Silent Auction Saturday September 2, 2017.



November 15, 2017 – November 19, 2017 – Kairos Prison Ministry (Private Event).


November 22, 2017 – November 24, 2017 – Family Reunion (Tentative, Private Event).


December 1, 2017 – December 3, 2017 – VAWB Annual Holiday Party Weekend. Holiday PartySaturday December 2, 2017.


All events subject to change. Please make reservations if you plan to attend an event or stay the night.


For reservations or to schedule an event contact: Jackie Crowe,,(757) 722-6960 residence, or

(757) 218-6460 mobile.



VAWB Officers 2016-2017


John Pleasants, President

Pat Brown, 1st Vice President

Pete Ellington, 2nd Vice President

Carol Thomas, Secretary

Jackie Crowe, Treasurer


VAWB Board of Directors




Christi Barranger

Jackie Crowe

Woodrow Berry

Jackson Stamper

Richard Stone

Judy Duncan



Bob Hoffman

Carol Thomas

Darrell Person

Polly Simmons

Pat Brown

John Pleasants



Frank Huff

Carolyn Sue Bowling

Harold Wagstaff

Pete Ellington

Sean Au

Justine Young

















Greetings from the Peninsula!!!


Beginning on a rather sad note, Frank Huff’s mother, who lived in Georgia, passed away recently. Frank has been and still is a long-time member of the VAWB Board and has helped transport us to the Lodge over the years. Our condolences go out to you Frank.


Margaret Holmes is getting a group of Hampton State School alumni and friends together for their annual August trip to the Lodge and so far has a full house.


On Monday, March 20th Denice Wilkins’ daughter, Fawnta Weaver, went to South Carolina to help other people close government contracts and will be back on March 31st. Fawnta works for the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth. Fawnta’s son Tyrell graduates from high school in June and will enter the Navy in July. Bon Voyage, Tyrell!


Pat Brown’s winter experiences included sharing Thanksgiving and Christmas at her home with her grandchildren and with her brother and his wife. As Pat says, “I am still tired.” She also went to a Super Bowl Party at her brother’s house with her sister and brother-in-law who came from Tennessee. Her sister-in-law and her friend from Mississippi also came. As Pat says, “Food, food, and more food.” In March she attended a disability conference at Old Dominion University, very interesting and informative. Later in March she went to Norfolk to conduct a sensitivity training session to about 60 paratransit drivers and dispatchers. This included north side and south side. As Pat says, “Whew.”






Polly Simmons spent most of last year in Southwestern Virginia in hospitals, funeral homes and cemeteries due to the illnesses and deaths of two brothers who passed away on June 4th and October 31st. She also lost a couple of first cousins. Her two-month old great-granddaughter Iris Elaine passed away on March 28th. Our condolences go out to Polly and her family.


As for me, I am still enjoying life her at Warwick Forest and it has been a learning experience. It has been a challenge getting used to people with other challenges; that is, being on walkers, scooters and wheelchairs.


Here’s wishing you a blessed Easter and happy spring and summer.


Respectfully submitted by,

Sally Steiger, Peninsula Reporter




It’s time to catch up with some of our VAWB members in the Richmond area. Notice that what was once the Richmond Chapter is now the Richmond area. We’re disbanded but we’re still here and still making news.


The happiest news comes from Sharon Fassold. She said yes! Sharon became engaged on Valentine’s Day, awwww. She will marry Vince Tolson of Bon Air, Virginia in September. Many of us have met her tall and very nice fiancé already. We hope to see them at Burkeville many times to come.


The most inspiring news comes from Judy Deppman. Judy is a study on how to age well. She actually has devoted considerable study to that topic. She suffered two strokes that kept her home only briefly. She attributes her remarkable recovery to the power of positive thinking and putting that power to work. She was very influenced by Norman Vincent Peale’s book, “The Power of Positive Thinking.” She has read it five times to date and still keeps a copy on her desk. Her advice is to read that book and not let the word IF enter your head. She is one sharp cookie for any age and a good one to ask for advice. We are so glad to see her out again!






There’s good news also from Richard Stone. He has recovered from his shoulder injury and he and Karen Brown have a full slate. They are busy with the Lion’s Club and the NFB. On Sunday, April 30th, they will be on the boardwalk in Virginia Beach for the Foundation Fighting Blindness Walk. This event will raise money for eye disease research. He will be telling us about that and passing out pledge pamphlets at the yard sale. Richard and Karen will also be introducing us to Diane Grimstead who is driving them and has been very helpful in general. We are looking forward to meeting her.


John and Faye Pleasants provided our most encouraging news. They are out stumping hard to raise money for the Lodge from the Lion’s Clubs and meeting with great success. In November they met with the Clarksville Lions Club and gave a program about the Lodge. That club made a nice donation and was very complimentary about the presentation. In February, they visited the Lawrenceville Lions Club and received a whopping $2,500 donation. Wonderful! John and Faye gave the president of that club a Burkeville Lodge pin and profuse thanks from all of us. On April 27th, they will do a presentation for the Colonial Heights Lions Club. Thank you so much John and Fay and we are sure that presentation will go as well as always.


Faye Pleasants was presented with the Melvin Jones Fellowship Award for Humanitarian Services. This is the highest award Lions Club International gives and it is well deserved. John is touchingly proud of her as we all are.







John Pleasants also wanted to express his thanks for the support and encouragement he received when he lost his father this past Christmas. His family misses his dad but they’re glad he is at peace.


Carolyn Sue Bowling is making news with a whole new scene. She’s selling her home of the past three decades and moving on. She’s describing herself as a “box dweller.” She rented a huge dumpster and shed which are now filled with 30-years worth of stuff and memories. A lovely walk-out garden apartment on the bottom floor of a relative’s house is currently in the works. The house goes on the market in April and then the timing becomes crucial. While Carolyn Sue is hoping for a quick sale, she’s also hoping she doesn’t have to move before the apartment is ready. By the way the yard sale is getting a big boost from Carolyn Sue’s downsizing. Thanks and good luck from everyone!


Unfortunately, we can’t get away without some sad news. Sonny Everett and his wife were “snow birding” in Florida when she became very ill. After a long and harrowing stint in a Florida hospital, she became stable enough to return to Virginia. She will be undergoing chemotherapy at the University of Virginia hospital. Please send some positive thoughts to Sonny and his family. We wish them strength and a good outcome.


Former member and son of George Burnett, Stephen Burnett, passed away in December. Member Ken Saunders passed away in February. Member Richard Speights also passed away in February. Woody Berry had a brother pass away in March and Frank Huff’s mother passed away in March. Our heartfelt sympathy and prayers go out to all of the family members.





Charlene Rogers was in the hospital in February and April with a blockage. She now has tumors in her intestines. She also can no longer have chemotherapy as what is strong enough to help is reacting badly with her. She was hoping to make it to the Yard Sale but will not and states misses being with us at the Lodge. She was able to make it to the Annual Holiday Party back in December and we were all glad to see her.


Joe Rogers has been very busy taking care of Charlene and trying to start a larger garden then last year (1 acre worth last year) and take care of 55 chickens. He does however have time to sit and watch the deer, turkeys and bears that like to wander into his backyard from time to time.


Carol Thomas has been busy with 10 chickens, 12 ducks, 3 cats, 1 dog, and her family. Her youngest daughter Hannah is doing a poultry project, a garden project with 4H and planning on attending 4H camp this year. She is proudly taking care of 12 baby chickens. Carol was recently asked to be a supervisor at the Haunted Mansion she does in the fall and proudly accepted the position.


Well as Dot would say, “That’s about it for Over the Back Fence.”

Submitted by, Ruth Rankin





Burnett, Stephen George, 62, of Midlothian, claimed the promise of resurrection on December 24, 2016, after a long hard battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife, Cindy Jones Burnett, one son, Justin Thomas Burnett; two daughters, Heather Burnett Latham (Matthew) and Stephanie Louise Burnett; his father George Henry Burnett; one sister, Elizabeth “Betty” Ward (Richard); his sister-in-law, Sharon Ann Moore (Jim); several nieces, nephews, other family and friends. He was preceded in death by his mother, Ruth Ann Burnett. Stephen was a devoted Dominion employee for over 32 years. Stephen will be remembered by his devoted volunteerism with Meals on Wheels, Special Olympics, and various other charitable organizations.


 Saunders, Kenneth (Darius) Edward Eugene, Sr., 11/11/55 – 2/28/17 began his earthly journey in Hamilton, Bermuda. He was the third child of David R. Saunders, Sr. and Aluster Mallory Saunders. He came to live in the United States at an early age and has lived in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Ohio and finally landed in Victoria, Virginia. He had a strong competitive personality, yet always exemplified kindness and helpfulness in the communities in which he lived. There was never any doubt, however, that Kenneth was in charge. He was legally blind, but this did not deter him from beating his sons, nephews and anyone else who challenged him at basketball. He always won. He won at card games also. He had a garden that was the envy of all gardeners. He always made sure that mom got her Thanksgiving collards first before opening up to friends and neighbors. He also raised chickens and gave the eggs to the Salvation Army in Victoria and neighbors.






Saunders, Kenneth Continued

He was a member of the Kenbridge-Victoria Lions Club and sponsored Ken’s Walk, a fundraiser, where club members and friends walked from Victoria to Kenbridge. He did it for many years and was always the first to arrive. He said this year was his last walk. Kenneth was a printer by trade, but like his father could fix just about anything. He was especially good at fixing small machines like lawnmowers. Family and friends were always calling on him for help. He really enjoyed being the go to person. Kenneth was the father of six children: Kimberly Saunders of Atlanta, GA; Kendra Jones of Greensville, OH; Kenneth Saunders, Jr. of Melrose, MA; Darius Saunders, Ryan and Jacob Grice of Victoria, VA. Kenneth was married to Marlene O’Connell for twelve years. They met at the School for the Blind in Richmond, VA where Marlene was his instructor. There came a time when the four boys came to live with Kenneth and Marlene who took on the responsibility of parental care without hesitation. Ken was predeceased by mother Aluster, Sister Zorphora Omabegho and Brother David, Jr. There are many left behind to remember Kenneth according to the relationship they shared: Marlene, his wife; children Kimberly, Kendra, KJ, Darius, Ryan and Jacob; grandchildren Dominic, Jeremiah, Lillie; father David; mom, Dot; sisters Saundra, Ria, Davana; brothers, Scott, Alan, George, Michael; Aunts Dorothy Trimm, Blondell Dillworth; Uncles Reginald and Leon Saunders; nieces nephews, cousins; special friends Shawn, Sheila, Grace, Isaac, Jeff, Doreen, Susan, the Kenbridge-Victoria Lions Club and many others. Ken knew and loved God and we all loved Kenneth and thank God for having shared his journey.







Speights, Richard Lynn, son of the late Raymond Speights and Annie Richardson (Speights/Lightener) was born on January 11, 1945, in Baltimore, Maryland. Richard was the youngest of seven siblings. God called him home on February 13, 2017, after a brief illness. He graduated from Frederick Douglas High School (Baltimore, MD) and attended Morgan State University (Baltimore, MD). In his younger years, he was a master of several trades. He was a welder for Bethlehem Steel, a merchant seaman, an insurance agent, and a HVAC Engineer. In addition, he was a dedicated business partner working with his brother, Leon at the “Famous Leon’s Pig Pen Restaurant.” He eventually became his own entrepreneur and opened his business “Richard’s BBQ Ranch.” As a result of his previous marriages, he had four wonderful children. In the summer of 1974, Richard met the love of his life, Mariana Hurtt. In 1998, they were married and out of that union, three more children were added to the family. He is the father of seven children, four sons and three daughters. In 2003, Richard and Marian moved to Kenbridge, Virginia. Richard had a quiet and loving spirit. He was a good Sheppard of the Lord and his good works followed him everywhere he went. As Deacon in his church, he was a great servant of the Lord and served through-out the communities supporting many of the outreach services. Even when his health prevented him from attending church, it never stopped him from having church in his heart. He stood on God’s Word and was faithful to the end. He knew as he stated “God is in control.” Richard was a very caring and giving person who was well known throughout the community. He was active member of the Lions Club where he served as President and Zone Chairman for several years. In 2016, he received one of the highest awards for services rendered at the Lion’s Club International Conference.





Speights, Richard Continued

On February 11, 2017, Richard received his last and most rewarding honor for outstanding achievements and accomplishments from the Kenbridge-Victoria Lions Club. In his spare time, he served numerous committees through-out the communities such as, Vice-President of Lunenburg County Ministries, and served on the Board of Directors. His other enjoyments in life were golfing, hunting, fishing and let’s not forget playing pinochle. He had a special way of making his family and friends smile. Leaving to cherish his memory, his devoted loving wife, Mariana, three daughters, Deneen (Shelly) Toney, Kelly Hurtt and Terri Hurtt; four sons, Richard Speights Jr. (Tammi Speights), Troy Speights (Koya Speights), Terrell Jones and Randall Hurtt (Latrina Hurtt); 20 grandchildren, 3 great grandchildren; 1 surviving brother, Raymond Carlton Speights (Evangeline Speights); 5 sisters-in-law, 5 brothers-in-law; and a host of other relatives and close friends.