S2E1: George & Cordelia: Hands on the WheelDawn Prall welcomes George and Cordelia Peters, a couple who have been married for 45 years and have learned to succeed with George’s low vision.
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In this episode…
Dawn Prall welcomes George and Cordelia Peters, a couple who have been married for 45 years and have learned to succeed with George’s low vision. Cordelia begins the interview by sharing how she met George while they both worked at a church radio station. Cordelia explains that George’s search for work led both George and Cordelia to their Senator’s office, and the Senator’s office was able to secure George work in the New Cumberland Army Depot.
Next, Dawn asks George to share his thoughts on his life and Cordelia. George explains that he sees Cordelia as a gift, and that he is proud that because of his work, Cordelia was able to attend college and earn her degree. He continues, recalling that his low-vision has given both him and Cordelia the opportunity to acquire a wide array of skills, including auto-repair and amateur radio. George also shares that he is a licensed SCUBA diver.
George recollects how he learned braille while in the first grade, while at the same time teaching himself to read and write in print by copying the alphabet on a typewriter. He then explains his career in maintaining military helicopters and his work in the Civil Air Patrol, a position he enjoyed for 22 years, while also taking as many courses as possible to gain further qualification.
Dawn asks George to share how he thrived in his career despite his low vision. George answers by pointing back to his education, emphasizing that his proactivity in finding the tools and skills he required is what allowed him to succeed in his life and in his marriage. George follows that advice by saying that people must have hobbies that will teach them, and to mimic the habits of successful people.
Next, George explains how Cordelia has supported him, by driving him to his work or education. Cordelia concurs, sharing how she took the responsibility of driving George and monitoring their children to allow George to be able to attend Civil Air Patrol meetings, or for George to gain work experience in an auto mechanic’s shop. George and Cordelia pivot to discussing their thoughts and their plans for the future. Cordelia explains that should anything happen to either of them, that they both would need to adapt to the changes due to their needs and the rural area in which they live.
Dawn asks George to share his experience with Assistive Technology, and George describes how quickly he moved to acquire Assistive Technology to aid him once he became aware of it. Dawn asks George to share one last piece of advice to the audience; George answers by imploring that people use what they have to the fullest, and to embrace the skills they will need to use in the future.
Did you do this, did you do that?
Transcription excerpts from this episode
Welcome to MyMacDLife empowered by the Support Sight Foundation. This podcast is about macular degeneration and the devastating impact it has on millions of people and their families every single day, 365 days a year. Our mission is simple. To bring hope, optimism, perspective and education to our listeners. So tune in, buckle up, and put your listening ears on.
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Today, we’re talking with George and Cordelia Peters. Hi, George. Hi, Cordelia. How are you?
We’re doing fine.
Good. You guys are really special. You’re special to me. And I’m so happy that we share some things in common. And that’s why I wanted to bring you on the show and have a conversation because the two of you epitomize life together with low vision. And I think that your story is one to share. And we’re gonna do that today. That is fine with me. Hi, Cordelia. How are you?
I’m fine. Thank you.
I’m gonna start with you, Cordi. Okay. You know, I was saying that your story is so incredible. And one that I really think people need to hear and share your story. I want to thank you for joining us today on MyMacDLife. So Cordi you guys have been married? How long?
Already? Five and a half years.
That’s amazing. Bravo. So you are together. And George can’t see. You can see. Correct.
What’s the first memory when you met George and George couldn’t see at the time. Tell us about that. When you first met him.
Well, actually longer than that. 48 and a half years ago, we met at a radio station. He had just gotten out of electronic school, which amazingly enough, you know, he did with the limited sight that he has, or had at the time, which was better than now. However, he could not get a job. There was still a lot of discrimination, and he could not find a job. So he decided to go to the radio station, get some experience so we could put it on his resume. And we met at this little church radio station that played classical music.
And I was there because I could pronounce the names of all the composers. And he was there because he knew the electronic side and could help out. And that’s where we met. He looked at my license hanging on the wall and got my name and birthdate and figured out that okay, you know, it led to another and we started going out. Well, a few months later, he proposed and I said yes. He didn’t have a job. And as you know, I must have been crazy. But you know, here we are 45 and a half years later, and
You’ve been crazy for 45 years or 48 years. We have been
So was it love at first sight?
Yeah, you can I think there was an attraction at first sight. And it just grew. So here we are. But he, you know, had trouble getting a job. The eyesight was definitely against him. And he applied to different places and they would not take him. He tried. Finally he went to the blind Association in Pennsylvania and they weren’t really any help at all. He was in the Federal building and saw a senator’s name. Senator Hughes got on the wall and decided that, hey, it’s ‘I’m not losing anything by not trying!’ So he went in the senator’s office and talked to one of his aides, because the senator was in Washington. But he made enough noise about it because you said, what do you want me to do? I can take Social Security, SSI, and just sit back and collect the rest of my life and just vegetate, or I can be a useful taxpaying citizen with a job. The senator managed to get him into what is a new Cumberland army depo.
So there you go, you have choices here. Empowered. So Cordi, I, know we’ve talked a few times about your role and the responsibility. Some people may view it as a burden. Some people don’t. It’s just what you do when you love and are married to someone who’s not sighted. Well, exactly. So, I remembered when I first said, caregiver, you know, and you’re like, what I know, it’s not the greatest word. No, it isn’t. That what your life’s like with that? You are with George, who can’t see. What do you what do you call yourself?
His wife, you know, it’s a for better or worse proposition. And I’m committed. We took vows 45 and a half years ago, you know, for better or worse, and here I am. So that’s just the way it is. Yeah, I’ve had to be his driver. I’ve had to be his eyes many times. I’ve helped out with some things. You know, it took my eyesight to see something, you know, more finely detailed. But, I mean, he did fairly well. All things considered. You know, he’s got a good brain. He just needed more magnification for many things. And boundaries. These new technical gadgets… I wish he would have had that when he was working. You know, they hadn’t come to fruition until after he retired. But they have been wonderful.
Good. We’re gonna talk about those in a little bit.
MyMacDLife podcast is a national award winner of the STEP program for innovative macular degeneration, patient education and for demonstrating a commitment to addressing the daily needs of people with age related macular degeneration.
You’re just awesome. You inspire me. Well, thank you. George is independent. And that’s the goal here. Part of the goal of MyMacDLife is to help people be more independent with their macular degeneration and their loss vision. Exactly. So George, I’m going to flip over to you. We talked about Courtney’s role in your life, as your wife, and she’s the wife of George, who can’t see it very well. So tell the folks who are listening out there right now. And many of them, I’m sure can relate. Talk to us about how you view your life with Cordi, and what role she plays.
Well, first, I view my life with her as a wonderful gift from God. That’s the first thing. And I thank God that I have her. I would also like to think that what I’ve done is improved her life. I’ve given her a lot of opportunity. She would not be an amateur radio operator; she would not be involved in knowing how to work on vehicles had it not been for me. There are a lot of things that I pushed her to do, even though she was involved in some education. I gave her the opportunity to go to college mid career when she lost her job at AT&T because I had a good job. And because I had that job, we were able to afford to send her to college, where she had the opportunity to get her college degree. She learned how to swim a lot better thanks to me, because I’m a certified scuba diver.
I’d like to think that its kind of been a two way street. I’ve improved her life, as well as she has improved mine.
All right George, I got to ask you this. I don’t know if other people are thinking this. But how do you SCUBA dive when you can’t see?
Yes, ma’am. I was a SCUBA diver. And you asked me how do I scuba dive? Well, you put the tank on your back, you jump in the water and you breathe through the regulator. I’ve been down as far as 100 feet in a quarry. And of course when I was down in the Caribbean, one of the guys was not going to let me snorkel because of my eyes and I reached around to my back pocket. I pulled up my dive certification. I said, may I see everybody else’s diver certification that’s on this boat?Nobody could produce one guest. I dove. So I told him, I said, ‘You’re welcome to dive with me that way. If there’s a shark, I’ll feed them to you.’
Oh my god, I love it. Yeah, so it’s not about victim. It’s not about needy. You both live a full life. Talk about your adventures. I know you go on a lot of cruises. In fact, you’re going on one soon right? COVID safe, of course. Where are you going?
We are heading out to Hawaii. We will go through the Panama Canal again for the second time. And out to Hawaii and beyond we will cross the international dateline, visit a number of islands in the South Pacific, and come back into San Diego and fly home. We just got back from a cruise. It took us all the way around South America.
Wow. So nothing stops you.
Well, why let it. The lady I was with on the South American cruise was totally blind. Her and her husband were on board the ship. Her husband could see and she lost her eyesight in her 30s. But they’re still together. They’re 70ish. And we enjoyed each other’s company and made new friends as we went around South America.
MyMacDLife podcast is brought to you in part by Centric Bank, Healthy Vision Association, Hinkle, Stein and Associates, Novartis, Regeneron, Vispero, and from anonymous donors.
Talk about the accessibility. Do you need it when you’re doing things like that? I mean, I’ve always wondered. Is it set up for you in a way that helps you because you have low vision? And can you talk about the cruise? Or does it matter?
Well, for the most part, it doesn’t matter for me because I can travel fairly well with the one eyeball that I have. I have now 20 over 600. It was 20 over 400. Lighting would be really the key factor. Good light, I can operate. Poor light, I have trouble.
So is there good lighting on a cruise ship? Fairly.
Well. Yes. There are a lot of people though you have to watch out for. And it’s a wonderful way to travel. They do have braille on the door so you can kind of read. That’s available. I do know braille. I learned that when I was in first grade, I did braille and typing the first four years that I was going to school. When I moved to Pennsylvania that started to disappear. So I taught myself print and used the magnifying glass. How’d you do that? I took a typewriter and typed the alphabet. So I use the uppercase because that’s what the funnies came in. And I wanted to read the funnies like everybody else, like all the other children. And then I taught myself the lowercase. So it’s just a matter of matching. Wow.
…You thought to do that. You figured that out. You’re an engineer type, there’s nothing that stops you. I mean, when we first met, you needed a device. So you could see your circuit board.
I was an aircraft mechanic at one point. I repaired instrumentation for the CH 47 and the CH 54 helicopters for the Department of the Army. And I did that for about three years. Wonderful job. I loved it. There wasn’t anything in the shop that I probably couldn’t repair. By the time I left I was pretty good at it. I repaired things that had been sitting on the shelf for years up there. When I started, the very first thing that they insisted was that they didn’t want me and there wasn’t anything they could do. I asked if that was my welcome aboard speech or should I be on the lookout for something later on. However, I worked successfully for three years. And when I left, I was active with Civil Air Patrol for 22 years, where I got a chance to fly in those same helicopters, the CH-47, the CH-54 and some other aircraft as well.
Wow. So they were kind of like well, we know you can’t see and you’re here just for a little while because we know there’s nothing you could do to help us. That was it?
Well, what happened, I had been cut back from a WG 9 to a WG 7. And by law, they have to restore your grade. If there’s something that comes open on the base that you qualify for and I qualified for these WG 9’s, there were three of us involved. So I had that opportunity and I took it and ran. And the rest is history. When I retired, I was working for the Department of the Navy. I was the lead technician. I retired out as a GS 12. And I started in government as a WG 5.
So tell for folks who aren’t in government, what does that actually mean? In lay terms it means you really worked your way up the ladder?
Oh, absolutely. And I went for a car ride with people telling me that they would see to it that that would not happen. And I did work my way up the ladder. I just kept taking course after course, after course, I had an interest in fiber optics, it was the last course. I said, well, I’ll complete them all before I get to the fiber optics course. And I took a course in fiber optics, because that was relatively new when I was in electronics school. And then I took a course in aviation, aviation missiles, because I really needed to know more about that since I handled, at one point, all of the air launched cruise missiles. I handled the Sidewinder, the Sparrow, the Amram. And of course, I had access to all the drawings at one point in my career, and what we were basically doing was determining what parts would be needed by the fleet to keep the units in operation.
So George, let’s remind people, you did all of this, and you really don’t see well. Share with me; with us. Through all of that adversity. How did you do it? How did you do it? What’s your secret?
The first secret is getting the right education and continuing to get education. And figuring out what you need to do. In other words, I figure if I can do it, I can do it.
That’s right. What’s your motto? George, you shared it with me. I want you to tell everyone. I love it.
Well, life doesn’t come to you, you have to go to it.
Nothing stopped you. You’re incredibly independent.
I tried to be. Sure another story that’s…
…How do you apply that to everything in your life? What’s your advice to people?
Well, of course, my advice to people is get involved, have hobbies that are going to teach you something. One of the greatest hobbies that I have is amateur radio. Because I’m around people that are doers…if you talk to them, they’re involved in a number of things as a general rule. So you learn if you’re going to be successful. Pay attention to people that are successful. Learn from them, keep your mouth shut your ears open. And you will learn.
MyMacDLife podcast is generously supported by Regeneron.
So how did Cordelia support you and all the things you got involved with?
Well, one of the biggest ways she supported me was through driving. It was my job to keep the car repaired. I went to automotive school for a couple of years so I could do without having to take the car to the shop, which is very expensive.
That’s good. You make a good team. She drives and you fix it. I love it. That’s awesome. So Cordi, George talked to us about getting involved. Stay involved, learn your education. And that’s his secret sauce. So when he’s involved, that means you’re involved. You’re driving him, you’re supporting him in ways that he needs you to. Do you have time for respite for yourself? I mean, how did you do it? You just enjoyed whatever he did? Talk to talk to us about that.
Well, depending on what he was doing, when it came to Civil Air Patrol, you know, I would take him down. But I took you down to the meetings, right? Yeah, yeah, I took him down. And I don’t know if I waited…I can’t remember now…in the car. Wait, I don’t think so. No, I don’t
think so. But I would take him down there and then he would do his thing. I read or whatever. And of course we had kids at home too. So it’s a good possibility depending on how much time it was going to take, I might just come back home and then go back down. Get him which, you know, involves double trips, which is what we had all the time. So, you know, when I took him to work, it was a double trip. Take him in later on in the day and come back and get him. So it was…you could call it a burden, but it’s just something you have to do and you do it. And that’s the way it is. And so, attitude. Yeah, exactly. If it weren’t for, you know, me being able to drive and take him most places, half the things that we’ve done wouldn’t happen. It’s just part of my responsibility as a wife. You do what you have to do. Like I said, it’s for better or worse, and you make it as better as you can.
It’s a relationship. That’s right. And you trust each other. You have to be his eyes. Exactly. George, you know, this is so enlightening. I love the people who are listening, and hearing your story, the adversity, overcoming adversity, doing anything, everything in your life, getting involved. So what happens if Cordi’s not around? What do you think about that? Have you talked about it?
We have discussed it. And if something happens to her, of course, I hope it does not. I hope that I go first. However, if it does, I’ve tried to maintain friendships with other girls. I feel sorry for people that would say that they would never get married again. I don’t know if I’d get married again. But, certainly if somebody were to come into my life, and I could love them again, I certainly would. And of course, my wife has a guy in Pittsburgh that would love to have her in a heartbeat.
So I won’t, I promise.
Can he see? Can he see you?
He can, he can see; he can drive. And ironically, he uses the Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. So I don’t know. You know, he has trouble reading. But as far as the smaller print and what have you.
So you’re not even responding to the fact that he can’t see. You’re responding to this based on what anybody would say. Yeah, exactly.
…It’s the fact that he can’t see that means he would have to depend on someone else for transportation. And then considering the fact that we live in a more rural area, there’s no bus service here. He would need to move someplace else, you know, sell the house, give it to one of the kids…but he would probably have to move to a place where there is easy access to a place to eat, a grocery store, possibly workout transportation with the county, so that if he needed to go shopping, he could maybe rely on some people from our church.
Look at you, you’re talking about all these tasks.
These are things that I do, you know. I go grocery shopping…He would have to rely on someone else to do it. And, you know, relying on someone else means that you’re on their schedule, not his. So, you know, we go to the YMCA to exercise if he wants to do it.
And you have
a report. Yeah, we do.
You have a report, you have a routine. Like we said earlier, you trust each other.
Exactly. You know, he can’t just hop in the car and go off by himself to a bar somewhere.
It’s probably good, but I probably wouldn’t want him to right now.
No, that’s true. Yeah.
You know, I guess to put it mildly, my God has taken care of me the first 68 plus years on the face of this earth, and He will continue to do so. I trust and know that I’ll be taken care of regardless. However it happens. It will be a sad day if I lose my wife. Absolutely. But God will take care of me. I still have more love to give. Yeah, it’s your faith that I have.
I love that. One last thing that we want to share with people. What haven’t we covered today that you want to say to people who are listening to our MyMacDLife live podcast about living life with low vision.
Even if you were to lose your eyes totally, which will probably happen in my lifetime, use what you have to the fullest. It’s a gift from God. If you have to go down the road of being totally blind, accept that it’s going be tough. But learn the skills of blindness. You might want to do that even ahead of schedule. Learn some of the skills of blindness, learn braille, learn cane travel. These are all tools that you have in the box that you can use when you need them.
So George, talk about the Assistive Technology. What are the tools? And we’ll make this brief because we only have a couple of minutes left in the hour. How do you embrace Assistive Technology?
I think Assistive Technology is fantastic. Not only do I have the closed circuit television that folds up that I bought from you. I gave one away, that was a much larger model. I sent that over towards Philadelphia for somebody else to use. I brought it home and fixed it. Of course you did. So I gave that one away and bought this one, the fold up. It’s smaller and I can carry it with me. The Iris Vision glasses that I have are excellent. The smart glasses allow me to do my soldering that I used to do with the telescopic lens. And without those sorts of things, I’m not sure I could do what I’ve done. So it’s the Assistive Technology that makes some of this possible. I’ll use that up until the day that my sight deteriorates to the point that I can’t use it. And once it does, I’ll find somebody that’s needy, and I’ll put it in their hands and say good luck, use it to the best of your ability. And when you’re done with it, you give it to somebody else.
So the Assistive Technology, the devices, Vispero is a sponsor of MyMacDLife, and every segment we do has a product spotlight. So I think it’s great for you to tell people out there that, you know, Assistive Technology sounds scary. Embrace it. It does change your life, right? When you need it.
Yeah, absolutely. I was using Assistive Technology when I found out about the smart glasses. I was reading a magazine that was put up on the bard system. And it allowed me to find out about these devices. And of course, I read about that on Memorial Day, this past summer. Once I read about it, I was chomping at the bit because I was waiting until Tuesday morning. I could be on the phone finding out how to get one of these things. I love it. I was down at your doorstep on Saturday morning. So I was moving quickly.
Yes, I know you don’t waste any time. We’re going to close out the time here. Although we could share your story over and over again with a lot more content, a lot more adventures, like going on cruise ships as well as other hobbies you have like martial arts and things like that. But maybe we’ll have you back again. Would you come back to the show?
Oh, I would be glad to. I mean, there’s a lot of things that we could talk about. I was a rescue worker. I was a fireman at one point. You know, the martial arts? Scuba diving? I don’t know what’s next. I mean, there’s some things I’d probably be a little scared
to do. I don’t think I’d want to strap one of those things to my back and fly. But there are a lot of things that I’ve done and who knows what’s around the corner.
I love the attitude, George. We’re going to end today by saying live life to the fullest. Absolutely. Your advice is, get involved. I am so happy you joined us and I’m really happy to be involved in your life. Both of you.
Thank you. Our pleasure.
Hi, I’m Dawn Prall, founder and executive director of the Support Sight Foundation. MyMacDLife, the podcast you’re listening to and tuning into right now is empowered by the support site Foundation. We are a voice you can try. MyMacDLife is the first podcast series about how to live your best life with macular degeneration. Hear advice from eye doctors who treat patients with MACD. Hear tips from low vision specialists about changes in your eyesight. Hear from scientists on promising research that will give you hope about technology to help you read, watch TV and do the things you love. MyMacDLife
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* Note: All listed transcript timings and wording are approximations.