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ST. MARYS — Ron Rose wasn’t born blind — a medical practice in the 1950s made him that way — but if there’s one thing he wishes he could do if he could see again, it’s drive a car.
Rose told the third-grade students in Joni Ahlers’ class at St. Marys Intermediate School he has driven a car once — but it almost got him in trouble — but if one day he woke up and wasn’t blind anymore, driving would be what he would want to do first.
Each of the third-grade students took turns asking Rose questions about his lifestyle.
“Every one of them is asking a question that they prepared,” Ahlers said.
One of the students asked Rose how he became blind, to which he noted he wasn’t born that way.
Rose, 60, was born premature. He was a twin, born two months early, and his twin brother died from complications. Because he was so small, the doctors kept him in an incubator. In the 1950s, the doctors didn’t realize all the oxygen in the incubators would hurt the infants’ eyes, blinding them.
Today, Rose lives with his mother, and works as a piano tuner, with his mother or siblings taking him to his jobs.
“I mostly walk in New Bremen with a cane,” Rose told Ahlers’ students.
Some questions ranged from how Rose goes grocery shopping, to how he picks out what to wear every day, to what kind of school he attended.
“I went to the Columbus School for the Blind,” Rose said, noting he started at the boarding school in Columbus at 5-years-old.
“I lived there — I saw my family every other weekend.”
After attending the school in Columbus, Rose attended a technical school in Talladega, Ala., which is where he learned how to tune pianos.
A student asked Rose what he does when he gets lost — he uses his cane, and if he gets lost, he will ask someone for help — and another asked how he crosses the street.
“When you hear the traffic stop on the other side, then you can cross,” he said.
Driving, Rose said, is the biggest challenge Rose has in regard to his blindness.
“It’s a challenge trying to find a ride to get to different places,” Rose said.
One of Ahlers’ students asked Rose if he had considered getting a seeing-eye dog to help him around.
“No, not really,” he said, noting a few of his friends had dogs and had issues. “They get sick too much and dog food is pretty expensive, so I’ll keep my cane.”
Rose told the students he learned to read braille when he was in the second or third grade and shared some information about the system.
“The braille signs are the hardest,” he said. “There’s 26 letters like your alphabet.”
Rose noted braille uses six cells, or dots, to make up each letter. He demonstrated how to write in braille, both using a stylus and a braille writer, which is similar in style to a typewriter.
“You read it left to right, but when I make words, I go from right to left,” Rose said.
He added he also likes to read books — there are companies in Nebraska, New York and Cleveland that have books written in braille, and he also likes to listen to books on tape from the local library.
During his visit to Ahlers’ classroom on Friday, Rose also showed the students how he tunes a piano — even noting the type of piano it was without being able to see the name on the front, just by knowing where the different knobs were.