Thursday, April 2, 2009

VISION IS NOT THE MEASURE OF A MAN---THOMAS MOORE BEAGLE





Having ones eyesight does not guarantee that we see the world around us. While most of us are lucky enough to have reasonably good eyesight, one special person in my life did not, but he excelled at living his life in spite of losing the use of his eyes.

Thomas Moore Beagle, "Tom" was born to Harry Frank Beagle and LaVaughn Elizabeth Moore on November 3, 1936 in Alliance, Box Butte Co., Nebraska. His maternal grandparents were Oswin Chester Moore and Pearl May (Zehrung). Grandparents on his father's side were Perce Beagle and Nelle(Telander). Tom was the oldest of four children, with two brothers and a sister. He grew up in the house that had been his great grandfathers from the early 1900's and was raised in a loving home with many cousins and other relatives living near by. He was a typical boy, delivering newspapers in his hometown of Alliance and he loved spending time with his brother, cousins and friends playing baseball. He participated in the Legion baseball games in Alliance throughout his adolescence.

Hunting, fishing and camping were some of the things that he loved the most. He spent many enjoyable times with his Uncle Freddie, Aunt Irene and cousins; Bill and Dick while growing up. His uncle Freddie was an avid fisherman and Tom accompanied him and his family on nearly every camping and fishing trip as he grew into his early teen years. It was during these young years while Tom was in about the 7th grade that he developed juvenile diabetes--the disease that would soon rob him of his eyesight and health. My mother told me of Tom's struggle with his disease as a child but also of his bravery and perseverance in dealing with his illness. Learning to give his own insulin shots, he strove to keep up with life and the other boys in a normal manner.

Hunting and being outdoors was something he loved and he took every after school or weekend occasion to get out in the fields with cousins and friends to hunt game. Cars and hot rods also held great interest for Tom, his brother-Jerry, and their cousins. If they weren't driving one, they were working on a car in their free time. Tom had great pride in his candy apple red and fully customized 1946 Chevy 2 door sedan. That was the day of the "real" classics!

After graduation Tom was employed in Alliance as an auto mechanic and in 1959 he moved to Scottsbluff, Nebraska to work for a dealership there. Tom met his future wife there and he was married in Scottsbluff on July 10, 1960. His wife already had a daughter and Tom soon adopted her. Their new little family soon had to deal with the onset of his sight loss.

The issue of diabetes combined with glaucoma came to the forefront in the early 1960's and Tom became totally blind by 1962 due to the effects of his diseases. The whole family, of course, was devastated but Tom did not give in and he looked for a way to move forward with his life and provide for his family.

The Lions Club in Alliance, Nebraska worked with them and offered great support for Tom and his family. They arranged for him to move to Omaha, Nebraska and begin training for a job opportunity. Tom became a sales representative for the Caravan Sales Program which was sponsored by the Services For The Visually Impaired-State of Nebraska. He and his family traveled throughout the state selling products that were made by the blind. These included brooms, mops, dishtowels and many other helpful household products.They would travel to a town and usually set up their display in the downtown area. He was an inspiration to
others and communities looked forward to his arrival. Speaking engagements, including at Lions Clubs throughout the state, also kept him busy.

Cars never lost their appeal for Tom even after his loss of sight. In about 1963, other family members and I (age11) accompanied him to the Nebraska State Fair to go to the "sprint" car races. He knew every car by the sound of the motor as it rounded the track and he kept perfect track of them as they raced. On another occasion his family joined ours on a camping trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota. We always fished at night for trout at our favorite lake there. "Coleman" camp lanterns were hung out over the boat edge to attract fish at night (yes, it was legal in SD). Fish could be caught hand-over-fist in this manner most of the time. Tom was baiting hooks and catching more fish than any of us that night as the fish were biting very lightly. He was pulling them in one after another and fish were "flying" all over the boat. The lantern glare was detrimental to the rest of us and he just laughed and laughed, saying that not being able to "see" the line move was his secret to success! His natural instincts were quite keen. As we sat around the campfire, revisiting times past, I never once ever heard him lament to the loss of his eyesight and we all had a wonderful time. Tom once was once quoted in a local newspaper as saying "A person that loses his sight has to have a positive attitude and continue to do the things he did before he became blind". He did just that and more.

Thomas and his family continued with his Caravan Sales Program until his health declined due to the ravages of diabetes. He passed away on February 2, 1966 in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was a very sad day for us all and a very special person had been taken home. He is buried in the Alliance Cemetery in Alliance, Nebraska beside his grandparents and a younger brother. Tom Beagle was only 29 years of age.

It did not matter how we were related to him, close or distant, he loved everybody and every one of us loved him- most importantly because of the "man" that he was. His nephew, who is named after him, has had very big shoes to fill!

A wonderful deep laugh would fill the room and his big smile showed his true soul. Self pity was never part of his vocabulary.

Thomas Moore Beagle was a son, husband, father, brother and nephew. He was my cousin....and my HERO because "vision" is not the measure of a man.

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