I recently was contacted by a friend of my mother’s from Redfield, Bill Gleason, who brought to my attention that the many people of Redfield who cared for and about my uncle, Winthrop (Tad) Chapman, did not know of his death in December 1996 at the age of 82.  Tad and his family lived in Redfield for many years.  Dr. Winthrop S. Chapman, Tad=s father, used to say he had delivered Ahalf the babies in Spink County."

Most people will remember Tad as the little deaf-blind boy who went away to the Sioux Falls School for the Deaf and later to Perkins Institute for the Blind in Waterton MA.  Periodic reports of his school progress would appear in the newspapers in South Dakota.

In 1919 Tad became deaf-blind when he contracted spinal meningitis and lost his sight and hearing at the age of 4.  His father went before the South Dakota State Legislature and proved that despite being totally deaf and totally blind Tad was capable of learning; therefore, the State of South Dakota was responsible for his education according to the State Constitution at that time.  Tad was sent to the Sioux Falls School for the Deaf and taught by Miss Sophia Alcorn.  He learned to speak and to Alisten@ to people by placing his hand lightly on the speaker=s face and interpreting the lip movement, vibration, and muscle movements.  Sophia Alcorn named this the Tadoma Method -- named for Tad and Oma Simpson, the first two people to use this method exclusively.  Tad graduated high school from Perkins Institute for the Blind in 1933.  He was the first deaf-blind person to graduate high school with a regular class at Perkins.  His education there was such a positive experience that the Institute opened a deaf-blind department.

Tad remained a student throughout his life.  He learned languages (German, French, Spanish, Esperanto, and more) and took correspondence classes from the Hadley School for the Blind in Illinois.  Tad was named Student of the Year in 1971 by the Hadley School.  Tad always had books going back and forth to the Library of Congress and would even order books from a Braille library in London.  He also remained an avid reader of the Braille versions of the Christian Science Monitor, New York Times and Readers Digest. My family is indebted to the Postal Service for the thousands of pounds of books they delivered to Tad over the years.

In 1938 Tad toured South Africa with a teacher from Perkins and his mother, Jessie Meeker Chapman.  They were invited there to demonstrate the Tadoma method of communication (which is still used today) and show that useful lives that could be lived by the handicapped.  Tad and his mother returned by way of England just before the outbreak of World War II on one of the last transatlantic crossings of the Queen Mary as a passenger ship before the war.  Grandmother=s diary speaks of Hitler=s picture on the German boat as they went to South Africa and later of trenches in Trafalagar Square upon their return.  Since then, Tad has lived a more normal life.

After the World War II he moved to Rosemead, California to be near his brother and sister.  He and my grandfather first ran a rabbit farm, then a chicken ranch.  Tad kept the books for the business, fed the chickens, and gathered the eggs.  My grandfather and Miss Amanda Harmening, Tad=s lifelong caregiver, sold the eggs.  It was a profitable arrangement, and my grandfather liked to plant the surrounding land with fruit trees, berry vines, rhubarb, and other useful plants.  What wonderful rhubarb pies Amanda would make for Tad.

After my grandfather=s death, my mother, Janet, moved Tad and Amanda next door to their brother, Tom Chapman.  After Amanda=s death in 1974 Tad proudly practiced Aindependent living@ with some supervision from Edna (Miller) Chapman, Tom=s wife.  She faithfully cleaned his house, made a hot meal for him, and laid out the fixings for his other meals; however, Tad washed his own dishes.  Since Edna lived next door she was always running over there to make sure everything was okay.  I remember Aunt Edna as always busy and full of energy and fun, no matter how hard she worked.  Later Connie (Houghteling) Chism, Edna=s niece took over.  Connie would also take Tad over to her house to go swimming.  Connie and I have laughed over some of the things that Tad would ask to eat (and blithely expect us to somehow provide) -- freshwater clams (in California?), gooseberry jam, and more, but neither she nor I could duplicate Amanda=s rhubarb pies.

My mother, Janet, later moved Tad to Laguna Hills, CA as his neighborhood had gotten Arough@ and Tad had been robbed while he was at home by someone who was aware of his handicap.  In Laguna Hills my mother hired a young woman to do Tad=s housekeeping, and my mother cared for Tad until her death in 1984.  Afterwards I took over his care.  His housekeeper was a wonderful young mother and a great help to me.  Tad also started using a Braille TDD (Telesensory Device for the Deaf) which would let him telephone me by using what was basically a computer keyboard with a Braille display panel.  I read his transmission on a regular TDD video display panel.  I never was able to get Tad to interrupt his reading to answer the phone though: He had spent too much of his life not having to answer doors or phones to learn that skill now.  It was a great help, however, that he could call me to Atalk." 

Although Tad was very proud of living alone and his wonderful neighbors kept an eye on him, Tad=s advancing years made him a little unsteady on his feet.  We were afraid he would fall and break a hip, or need some other help and not be able to get it.  He needed someone there every minute and as a single mother working two jobs to pay my bills, I could not do that.  My brother, George Chapman Beavis, (born in Redfield) stepped in and moved Tad up to Seattle, Washington.  Tad lived with my brother and his family who took very good care of Tad.

Tad=s life was quiet and normal, but not idle or unrewarding.  He kept busy weaving, knitting, working with clay, and whittling.  He played the piano and, later, the ukulele.  He and George would occasionally play a game of chess.  Tad also corresponded with many different people. After a few years our fears about Tad=s steadiness proved true and he fell and broke his hip.  Fortunately, he was taken to the hospital promptly and he did regain a measure of his mobility. By then he was 80 years old, and it was decided that he should be in a convalescent hospital. He went to a very good Lutheran home where they quickly learned how to talk to him and what his special needs were.  As old folks do, he became confused and sometimes thought he was back at Sioux Falls School for the Deaf.  A series of small strokes added to his confusion.  In addition, his peripheral circulation was poor and his hands, that had acted as his ears for so many years, became Ahard of hearing."  In a sense, he again had to battle deafness.  Just before Christmas Tad caught the flu, which rapidly progressed to pneumonia.  George stopped to check on him and wish him a Merry Christmas, saw that he was not doing well, and returned that evening.  Tad died that night.

Tad is survived by his nephews, George Beavis, Tom Chapman (Jr.), Jim Chapman, and me, Jane Beavis, his niece.  We and our children are very proud of our Uncle Tad and proud that our family kept faith and fulfilled its duty to Tad through three generations -- four generations if you include our kids who shared their parents= time and attention, and diligently opened doors, kept things off the floor so Tad wouldn=t trip, and more. 

Tad did not become a saint or anything like that by virtue of his handicap.  He had a temper, would sometimes get frustrated, and I=m afraid we sometimes spoiled him.  However, Tad ALWAYS said thank you to people who helped him.  In my opinion, one of the remarkable things about his life is that no matter what kind of a scoundrel a person might be, they would be patient and kind while making the little extra effort it took to talk to Tad:  As far as he knew, he never met anyone bad.

It is only right to point out the help that everyone who encountered Tad gave.  Since it was the people of South Dakota who paid for Tad=s education -- an education that led him Aout of the silent night" -- I thought they should be notified of the death of this remarkable, but normal, man. I sent this eulogy to the Sioux Falls newspaper shortly after Tad’s death but evidently it was not published. I hope the people of Redfield (and South Dakota) remember what a wonderful life your taxes and support of education for the handicapped provided to Tad.  I=m sure Tad would thank you.

[Submitted to Redfield Press on 7/19/10 and the said they would publish 7/20/10 - JB]
Published by Redfield Press, Volume 121 - No. 29 Wednesday, July 21, 2010, page 4 & 5