Cerro Gordo County Iowa
Part of the IaGenWeb Project



The Globe Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Saturday, September 3, 2011
by Kristin Buehner

Former Police Chief Finds Help in Living With His Blindness

Retired Mason City Police Chief Gene Kleinow demonstrates Braille characters on a wooden Braille cell. Considered legally blind, Kleinow has retinal dystrophy, a gradual degeneration of the retina. ~ Globe Gazette Photograph

MASON CITY - Retired Mason City Police Chief Gene KLEINOW has acquired skills he never could have foreseen the need for.

"I learned Braille," he said. "It didn't take that long, actually."

After retiring at the age of 55 from the Mason City Police Department, KLEINOW, now 72, worked for five years as a railroad engineer.

"And then my eyes went bad," he said.

KLEINOW has retinal dystrophy, a deterioration of the retina. His loss of eyesight was gradual.

"The doctors don't know what caused it," he said.

KLEINOW is legally blind, but can see light. He can't see the detail in a face, nor can he read.

But he can still go fishing and use power tools, run the vacuum cleaner and the microwave and help with the grocery shopping.

"I can do a lot by just feel," he said. "You just modify things."

He walks unassisted around his home, but uses a white cane in unfamiliar territory, KLEINOW said.

"It's just something that you do," he said of life after blindness. "The rest of me is really healthy."

President of the Greater Mason City Area Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind and its support group, KLEINOW has worked closely with people at the Iowa Department for the Blind and makes use of many of their resources, some of which are free, and classes they offer. Courses cover such topics as cooking, woodworking, cane travel and housekeeping.

"There are a lot of things available to help people," KLEINOW said. "I have a talking calculator, a talking watch and a device to assist in writing my signature. I listen to the Globe Gazette every day over the telephone. I can read just about any newspaper in the country and it's all free from the National Federation of the Blind (NFB)."

The device used is the NFB Newsline.

His computer has an audio program that reads his e-mails to him.

KLEINOW strives to do as much as possible on his own, but admits that sometimes it's slow going "because I'm extremely cautious."

Referring especially to his careful use of power tools, such as saws and drills used for woodworking, he said, "What used to take me about 30 minutes to do now takes me three hours."

Pat KLEINOW, Gene's wife of more than 50 years, said his loss of vision was a difficult adjustment for her to make, too.

Although she used to drive only rarely, Pat must now do all the driving for the two of them.

"You cope," she said. "It's a big adjustment. He's my rock and we get through it. You can't lose your sense of humor."

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, September of 2011



  • Return to Biography Index Page

  • Return to Cerro Gordo Home Page


    © Copyright 1996-
    Cerro Gordo Co. IAGenWeb Project
    All rights Reserved.