October, 2005
Newsletter of
The East Bay Center for the Blind, Inc.
2928 Adeline St.
Berkeley, CA 94703
Phone: 510-843-6935
Fax: 510-843-6006

Editor's Corner By Daveed Mandell

Welcome to the final issue of this newsletter for 2005. It is hard to believe that 2006 is practically around the corner.

This is a season for celebrating, and not just because of the fast approaching holidays. Thanks to the hard work of Ron van Kleeck, our wheelchair-accessible bathroom is now a reality! Needless to say, we very much appreciate all of the work that Ron has done for us around the Center. In addition to remodeling the bathrooms, Ron has installed our kiln, put electronic ballasts on our fluorescent lights, and repaired and repainted the very moldy and cracked wall located along the women's bathroom and the computer lab.

Center elections are coming up once again next January. During our October business meeting, the membership will choose three people to serve on the Nominating Committee. We will also vote on the two amendments to the Constitution that were proposed last July. Please attend this very important meeting.

2006 dues are now due and payable! If you want a free Holiday lunch in December, you must pay your dues by or on the date of our party.

Thanks to Jan Santos, who submitted a recipe for this issue of the newsletter As always, contributions from members--in the form of short articles, poems, recipes, information items, announcements and ads--are always welcome. Please contact me either by e-mail--at or by phone--at 510-665-9260.

Here's wishing all of our members and friends a very merry, happy, healthy, fruitful and productive Holiday Season and New Year.

Upcoming Events

Quarterly Business Meeting: The Center's next business meeting will be held on Saturday, October 22, from 1 to 4 PM. We will elect three members to the Nominating Committee which will submit a slate for next January's elections. We will also vote on the two amendments to the Constitution which were proposed last July. Our lunch menu has yet to be determined, but it is sure to be tasty! Members pay $7, and guests $8. Please order your lunch by Wednesday, October 19.

October Get-Together/Sing-Along: Come join us for an informal get-together and sing-along, to be held Saturday, October 29, from 1 to 4 PM. We will serve pizza and salad for $5. Beer and wine extra. Please reserve your lunch by Wednesday, October 26.

Harvest Festival: The Center's annual Harvest Festival will take place on Saturday, November 19, from noon to 4 PM. We will have a crafts table, sell baked goods, offer a $5 lunch plate and put on a variety show. Please let the Center know if you plan to contribute craft items and/or your favorite baked delicacies. Lunch plates should be reserved by Wednesday, November 16.

Holiday Party: The Center's annual Holiday Party is set for Saturday, December 17, from noon to 4 PM. Lunch is free for all those who pay their 2006 dues by that date. Guests pay $8. We will sell crafts and our chorus will entertain us. Please request your lunch by Wednesday, December 14.

Life Enhancement Skills Class By Grace Rodriguez

The first meeting of the Center's Life Enhancement Skills class will be held on Thursday, October 20, from 1 to 3 PM. The discussion topic will be budgeting and money management. Everyone is welcome! The class will meet through the end of the year. At that time, we will determine whether there is still enough interest in the class to keep it going next year.

Blueberry Cream French Toast Casserole Submitted by Jan Santos

Here is a recipe to serve for a Holiday brunch.
1 loaf Texas Toast or egg bread cut in to cubes
1 8 ounce package cfream cheese slightly softened
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries tossed lightly with flour
8 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cups maple syrup
6 table spoons melted butter

Coat a 9 by 13 by 2 inch baking dish with cooking spray or oil. Layer 1/2 bread cubes in baking dish cut cream cheese in to cubes, scatter over bread. Layer blueberries over cream cheese. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over bread. Press bread with spatula to help soak up mixture. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350 degrees 45 to 50 minutes. Makes 8 servings.

Library News By Grace Rodriguez

A new committee has been formed to oversee our braille and audio library. Its members are: Katrina McCurdy, Preston Moses, Barbara Staats and myself, Grace Rodriguez. When borrowing books, please let one of the committee members know the title of the book and the volume numberggs) you are taking. You may keep one volume for up to a month. Of course, if you are a rapid reader, please return the volumes sooner. Thank you for helping us keep track of our valuable books. Happy reading!

John di Francesco: A Fond Remembrance

The Bay Area's blind community has lost one of its most talented, dedicated, witty and generous members, with the death late last month of John di Francesco. He was 86 years old. John was a brilliant, gifted and highly respected musician, baritone opera singer, teacher and braille music expert.

Born in Lawrence, Mass., in 1919, John lost his sight from spinal meningitis at the age of 2. His first language was Italian, but he learned English at 7 when he began attending Perkins School for the Blind.

After finishing high school, John earned a scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and graduated summa cum laude in 1944. In 1947, he married Muriel Cook, whom he met during his studies.

During and following his years at the Conservatory, John was mentored by renowned opera star Ezio Pinza, who was so impressed with John's voice that he paid for John to study with fellow singer and voice coach Enrico Rosati in New York. There, John had a weekly radio program, on which he sang operatic selections, Italian folk songs and light classical numbers.

John moved to Oakland in 1957, and became music director and instructor at the California School for the Blind in Berkeley. He taught music and led the school's Glee Club for 22 years. John spent many hours of his own time reading plays and teaching drama and various musical instruments. He expected the best from all of his students, and inspired them to work up to their capacity. In his last years at the school, John led an unsuccessful fight against the eventual move of the school to Fremont in the late 1970s.

John retired in 1980, but he didn't stop teaching. He participated in a wide variety of musical events, ranging from fully staged operas, to concerts of Lieder, Oratorio and regular productions of Handel's "Messiah. John founded the Vista Chamber Chorale in 1979. He served as Protestannt Choir director at the Alameda Naval Air Station, and conducted choirs at several Bay Area churches.

In the late 1990s, due to severe hearing loss, John was forced to stop teaching. However, he remained active with organizations of the blind, especially the California Council of the Blind's (CCB) Bay View Chapter, of which he was a founding member in 1959. During the 1980s, John was actively involved in the unification effort of the CCB with the Associated Blind of California (ABC) and ACB. He was instrumental in working with the City of Oakland to install accessible pedestrian signals.

For many years, John vigorously campaigned for increased braille literacy as an active member of the Braille Revival League (BRL). A recognized expert on braille music, he served for several decades as a proofreader for the Library of Congress.

John's wife Muriel died in 1996. He is survived by his sons Paul, Tom and Michael.

John was a kind and caring human being, with a quick and sharp wit. He was also a persistent advocate on behalf of blind people. John had a profoundly warm, deep, authoritative and impressive professional singing and speaking voice. He coached many singers and actors throughout the Bay Area. John's breath control, diction and expression in both singing and speaking were always meticulous. He was a magnificent singer, actor, choral conductor and teacher. We will always remember John fondly. May he rest in peace.

Center Closures

The Center will be closed for Thanksgiving--from Wednesday, November 23, through Friday, November 26--and will re-open for business on Monday, November 28. The Center will also be closed for the Holiday Season--from Monday, December 19, to Monday, January 2, 2006--and will re-open for business on Tuesday, January 3.
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
--Thomas Alva Edison Back to Home Page