Legally blind man returns to his roots to speak to Lions Club

Legally blind man returns to his roots to speak to Lions Club
(Source: Albert Frankenberger)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A legally blind man is coming back to his roots in Region 8 and will speak to the University Heights Lions Club on Tuesday.

Anthony Joseph Heckemeyer is a 1966 graduate of St. Paul's High School in Pocahontas.

He was contacted about the 50th class reunion over Memorial Day weekend, but because he is blind, he hesitated to attend since traveling would involve flying.

Through several connections, University Heights Lions Club member Albert Frankenberger offered to help Heckemeyer travel to Jonesboro, not only for his class reunion, but to also speak to the Lions Club.

Heckemeyer will speak at 6:30 a.m. at Chef's In in Jonesboro Tuesday morning.

Heckemeyer lost his sight in 1996 due to a form of retinitis pigmentosa.

As a lawyer, the diagnosis was something he had to adapt to, especially considering the revolution of technology since then.

He received training from the Michigan Commission for the Blind and continues to learn new skills everyday.

Through years of training, Heckemeyer also received a Leader Dog.

Leader Dog School for the Blind is in Rochester, Michigan. Inmates at the Fort Dodge Iowa State Correctional Facility help with basic training for the dogs.

Heckemeyer's Leader Dog, Harry, helps guide and safeguard him as he moves through everyday life.

Heckemeyer, a Northville Lions Club member, has been able to lead an almost self-sufficient life through training, Harry, and the developments for sight that Lions Clubs International helps to promote.

In almost 20 years of being legally blind, Heckemeyer has seen technological advances including optical character recognition programs, GPS units for blind travelers, and optical implants.

Heckemeyer will focus on his journey particularly with his Leader Dog Harry at the University Heights Lions Club meeting while also touching on how he's adapted to everyday life.

The special program is open to the public.

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