by Sharon Lovering
Carol M. McCarl, former chair of ACB’s board of publications, founder and executive director of Blindskills, Inc., passed away May 2nd. She was 80.
Carol was born and raised in Green Bay, Wis. She was born with limited eyesight due to retinitis pigmentosa, and attended and graduated from the Wisconsin School for the Visually Handicapped in 1955.
As a kindergartner, she said that she wanted to be a teacher. Growing up, she wanted to be a librarian. She liked books and enjoyed reading. She also liked playing teacher as a little girl. In an interview with Karen Lynn Thomas, printed in “Dialogue’s” May-June 2005 issue, she said, “When I got into high school, I figured it out that I really would like teaching. I liked being in school, so I thought I could be at the other side of the desk.”
Carol went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Edgewood College of the Sacred Heart, and a master’s in special education from Boston University.
Following her graduation from Boston, she took a job as an itinerant teacher of blind children in the Waterbury School District, Waterbury, Conn. “I sent letters all over the country and I kept getting letters back that said, ‘No, we don’t want a blind teacher.’ On my last day in Boston, I had a call inviting me for an interview from the superintendent of public instruction in Waterbury, Connecticut. … Monday morning I interviewed with Mike Wallace and I said, ‘You know I’m blind.’ He seemed to think there was nothing better than a successful blind adult teaching a blind child. … Mr. Wallace gave me an unusual opportunity to design a new program to serve visually impaired students from K-12. My plan included the requirement that children in kindergarten through the fourth grade learn reading, writing and arithmetic along with compensatory skills in one classroom with me in the morning. In the afternoon the children were with their primary level teacher and classmates down the hall. I instructed students from fifth through twelfth grade in the afternoon, meeting with them in their neighborhood schools.” 1
She was motivated by her students who were blind and attended public school, she said. “They just didn’t have any blind role models. There needed to be somebody to try and explain the abilities of blind children and their potential.” 1
Carol met her first husband, William Gerard Derouin, while summer-teaching blind students in Waterbury. Carol moved to Oregon in 1964 to take a job as an elementary school teacher at the Oregon School for the Blind. Bill followed her, and the two were married at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on Halloween 1964. Over the next few years, they had two children, and raised them in the Catholic faith.
In 1970, she became the English and typing teacher for grades 7 through 9 at the Oregon school. A few years later, she took the job of itinerant teacher for grades K-12 for four rural counties in Oregon.
In 1983, Carol founded Blindskills, Inc., and published “Lifeprints” magazine for youth and young adults with vision loss for the next decade. “I just thought I would start a magazine that would be for the teenagers and college students, so they would have some way to know about resources and have some role models. That was the point. I only meant to publish a magazine.” 1
In 1990, she became the editor of “Dialogue” magazine. At the same time, she was the instructor for high-school students and supervising teacher for Portland State University students training at the Oregon School for the Blind.
Carol retired from teaching in 1994. A year later, “Dialogue” and “Lifeprints” magazines merged to become “DIALOGUE: A World Of Ideas For Visually Impaired People Of All Ages.” Each issue contained lifestyle tips to help the visually impaired and their families. Her goal was to help blind children grow into fully functioning adults who face fewer obstacles and bigotry than their predecessors. 2
When she wasn’t working, Carol enjoyed music, dancing, going to the beach, and spending time with her family, especially the grandkids. She was an avid sports fan, and followed the Green Bay Packers as both a fan and a one-share owner of the team. She enjoyed sharing the story of the time in 1998 when she traveled to the famous “frozen tundra” of Lambeau Field to attend a Packers home game.
In 2006, McCarl received the Migel Lay Volunteer Award from the American Foundation for the Blind. The award is the highest honor in the field of blindness, and is presented annually to professionals and volunteers “who have contributed to improving the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired.”
Also in 2006, she was working on a pamphlet to educate medical professionals about how to assist blind patients. “The way people who are blind are treated by the medical profession is abysmal,” she said, showing an advocate’s spark. For that spark, she received many accolades, including the Salem Red Cross chapter’s Community Partner Award. 2
Carol is survived by her son, Pete Derouin, and daughter, Janey Ray; three grandchildren: Stephanie Ray, Natalie Ray, and William Derouin; and many other family members, friends and former students. She was preceded in death by her parents Elmer and Rose Broeren, and her three siblings Lois Hannes and Dan and Helen Broeren, all of whom resided in Wisconsin.
All are welcome to leave tribute messages at https://www.everhere.com/us/obituary-salem-carol-mccarl-9152130. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you consider a donation to Blindskills Inc., 680 State St., Salem, OR 97301.
1 “A Distinguished Career in Teaching and Human Services,” from “Dialogue,” May-June 2005.
2 “Blind Advocate Shows the Way,” from “Polk County Itemizer-Observer,” Oct. 3, 2006.