Who We Are

Tammie Hefty lives with her husband and daughter in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin.  Her daughter is 9 years old and legally blind.  Tammie likes to blog regularly as a way to help encourage others who may be raising a child with special needs; and she finds it very therapeutic to explore her own experiences through her writing.

Steven Johnson: After losing his eyesight in 1986 and receiving a very successful kidney/pancreas transplant in 1991, you will now find Steve working hard at his job for La Crosse County.  In his spare-time, Steve gives back in many different capacities, including serving on the Board of the Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired and being involved in countless service organizations, boards, councils and committees. With his sidekick Leader Dog, Bennett, they are ready to take on any challenge tossed their way.

Annika Konrad is a writing instructor and Ph.D. student living in Madison, Wisconsin.  In 2013, she received a Public Humanities Exchange Grant from University of Wisconsin-Madison to begin this project.  She has rod-cone dystrophy and has been experiencing gradual vision loss since she was a teenager. When she is not writing or reading other people’s writing, she is cooking, biking, and learning how to be more Swedish.

Frank Lopez is a retired high school teacher. He works part time for Custom Canines Dog Academy in Madison, Wisconsin. He has been totally blind since 1989, though he was born legally blind due to a disease of the optic nerve. He lives in Sun Prairie and has taught high school auto shop since 1994. His and his wife Judy have seven children and a guide dog named Nolan.

Lekshmi Mendez lives in Janesville, Wisconsin. She was diagnosed with Stickler Syndrome five years ago, and she has had glaucoma for about thirteen years. She has also experienced myopia, nearsightedness, cataracts, and retinal detachment. Being visually impaired all her life has not stopped her from having many positive life experiences.  Eighteen years ago, she went into the United States Peace Corps and volunteered in a third world country.  Being visually impaired has taught her to be a go-getter in life.

Katherine Schneider, Ph.D., is a retired clinical psychologist living in Eau Claire, Wisconsin with her ninth Seeing Eye dog. She’s blind from birth and has fibromyalgia.  Katherine has published three books and maintains a blog at http://kathiecomments.wordpress.com.

Melvin Sheire was born in November of ‘43, started at theWisconsin School for the Visually Handicapped in September of ‘48, lost his sight in November of ‘49 from a birth defect, graduated in June of ‘62 from WSVH, was married in November ‘64, has a daughter Sheila, born August of ‘68, and a son Eric, born April of ‘71.  He earned his first college degrees in religion and psychology in ‘91 from Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, and an associate’s degree in mortgage banking in 2002.  Melvin and his wife live in Milwaukee with both of their kids. They are both married.

Ericka Short currently lives in Kenosha, Wisconsin, but loved living in Minnesota in the past. She has held many jobs, such as day care teacher, nursing home activity assistant, personal care worker, and many volunteer positions. Though she hasn’t found her full-time dream job yet, people say she is the most active unemployed person they know! Her volunteer experiences have included drop-in babysitter, advocate for both persons with disabilities and without through Stand for Independence and CUSH, Habitat for Humanity, and has worn many hats at her home church St. Paul’s Lutheran. Some would say she’s done everything but served on council and preached. She spends time with her friends all over the state and nation, reading, listening to music, writes poetry, and loves riding motorcycles in her spare time. When she’s home she spends quality time with her 10 year old grey tabby boy Hunter. She currently has a boyfriend in Madison and Hunter is willing to share the limelight with him.

Huma Siddiqui is a mother, a CPA, a cooking show host, a cooking class instructor and an entrepreneur, founder of White Jasmine—a family business managed with Huma’s son, Samir Karimi. White Jasmine is a leader in creating and bringing innovative flavors to the market. Huma grew up in Pakistan and now lives in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. Her stories are about growing up with a mother who had lost her vision when she was in her early 30’s.

Dan Sullivan Despite 50+ years of dealing with Stargardts, Dan has survived career stints in five different fields and relocations to five different states.  Now retired from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, he has taken on vocations as author (four books) and artist (wood sculpture).  He resides in the North woods of Wausau, hails as s native of Dodgeville, and is a Who’s Who graduate of UW-Whitewater.

Theresa Sweeney-Smith lives in Wind Lake, Wisconsin with her husband, and they spend part of the year in Arizona, where one of their sons lives. She is 57 years old and has had glaucoma since she was 16. Theresa has tried to transition gracefully from a person who was sighted and could drive a car to a person who has learned to rely on her sense of humor, technology and the words “thank you” to remain successful and fulfilled in day-to-day life. By the summer of 2014, she will be the proud grandmother of seven grandchildren. She has worked for the past 26 years as the Human Resources Director at Mary Linsmeier Schools, a non-profit, multi-site, early childhood program with statewide locations in Wisconsin. Theresa is active in the Wind Lake Lion’s Club and she participates by writing articles for the town newsletter, coordinating eye screening for young children, and raising money for VisionWalk.

Chad Nelson was born in January 1971, grew up on a dairy farm and was expected to help with farm chores, both in the fields and with the animals. He was the youngest of 6 children, 4 of whom were adopted, including Chad. Chad went to public school until his sophomore year in high school when he attended the Wisconsin School for the Blind in Janesville. He went on to college and earned a diploma as an Information Specialist. He has worked a variety of jobs starting at Wiscraft, (now Beyond Vision) in Milwaukee and worked for a Milwaukee company raising money for various veterans organizations, and now at the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired. Chad has also volunteered 2 terms as an AmeriCorps volunteer. In late 2013, Chad lost his remaining vision due to complications from an eye operation, but this didn’t slow him down or prevent him from retaining his job. Currently Chad lives in Madison with his second Seeing Eye dog named Laura. Chad loves to travel, try new things, and also loves to cook for others, as well as becoming more involved in the community.

Judith Rasmusen grew up on a farm and loves plants. She also likes studying foreign languages including French, Spanish and Arabic. She has masters degrees in both French and social work. As an adult she lost her sight due to retinopathy of prematurity. Judith has worked part time at the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired for the past seven years and  is a licensed massage therapist and certified acupressurist with her own small business in Madison. Reading books and container gardening are among her favorite leisure activities.

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One thought on “Who We Are

  1. Pingback: There’s a storyteller in each of us | Vision Viewpoint

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