THE NEW HOLSTEIN REPORTER
By: Gerry Rybicke
It is part of the American way to get involved. We get too busy. We lose track of old friends and acquaintances. We send cards and letters at first to try to keep bonds between us strong. After a while, we do not even do that. This is about one of those old friends, who though not forgotten, perhaps inadvertently we may have lost track of him.
Jim Hemauer, as many recall, met with tragedy on a day in July eight years ago as he dove into shallow water. Jim was fifteen years old then and had moved to Plymouth with his family a few months previous to this. He is a young man of twenty-four now but life has not passed him by. In 1973 he completed high school. That same fall he entered the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. He went on to graduate in the spring of 1978 with a major in Social Work. When asked why he decided to go to college in the first place, Jim stated:
"I wanted to go on to school because there are just more opportunities for a quadriplegic with a college education."
When questioned about the practicality of his major, Jim replied:
"When I first entered college, I wanted to major in psychology and computer science because I love math. But then I changed my major because I thought it might enable me to help people in the same position I'm in because I know their needs and wants."
Jim could have played his disability for all it was worth and have himself put in an institution like a nursing home. Instead, he chose to go to school. And once committed to finishing his education, he was excused from nothing. In fact, the college structure was such that he even had to have a doctor's order to be excused from taking physical education classes! Jim talked about some of his college experiences.
"I lived with a couple of guys in an apartment the first two and a half years and moved into a house later - not always with the same guys. They did the cooking and helped me, of course. But once I left the apartment, I was on my own. I had to get myself to classes and make sure I took notes. In order to do this, I always carried carbon paper with me and asked a member of the class to put it under his own paper as he took notes because I just can't write fast enough."
Jim tries to be as independent as possible. It is to his credit that he typed all of his term papers for college by himself with the aid of a stick-holding device strapped to his arm. With this stick he plucks at the keys of a typewriter. This same device enables him to shave, hold a fork and brush his teeth by himself.
Another phase of Jim's education included two semesters of fieldwork that he had to complete in order to obtain his degree in Social Studies. One semester was spent working at the Division of Rehabilitation in Oshkosh where he learned more about his own handicap by working with other handicapped persons. The other semester was spent at Park View Hearth Center where he was more involved in actual counseling with the developmentally disabled.
"This was a nursing home situation," Jim stated. "I did a lot of one-to-one counseling here. I also organized recreational and social activities for the mentally disabled in-patients."
And what about his future?
"I've applied for admission to Arizona State University," said Jim. "I thought that I'd like to get my Masters Degree in Counseling and maybe work as a counselor in a vocational rehabilitation center or a high school. But lately I've given a lot of thought to the research aspect of counseling. I haven't really made up my mind."
Jim's whole life is spread before him, not exactly overflowing with opportunities but containing a good chance for success, a happiness secured by his own fortitude, optimism and desire for a reasonable amount of independence.
Jim Hemauer's uppermost thought at this time is to convey a message of gratitude to the people of New Holstein.
"I know that my sister (Mary Hoerth) and my Dad (Bob Hemauer) have gotten in touch with the papers, but I have never done so personally. I would like the New Holstein people to know how grateful I am for the contributions, benefits and many kindnesses shown to me. I am really thankful for everything."
There is no cynicism in Jim - no looking back as he smiles at the end of the interview and says - "Better get the wheelchair in the picture, too, because as matter of fact it is a part of me."
And, proudly, you are a part of us.