Friday, April 20, 2007

A Little More Information About Frances Paulk Bredemeier

Written by Virginia Paulk Gardner, daughter of Frances Paulk Bredemeier, April 20, 2007.

Mama was born in a log house her father had built out in the country in Batesville, Mississippi on July 18, 1916. Mama says it was was a "log house," not a "log cabin," because it had several bedrooms and a big front porch. Her parents were farmers. Batesville is a small town 60 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee and 20 miles west of Oxford, Mississippi.

When Mother was about 16 years old and active in "4-H," she canned the most green beans in the whole state of Mississippi. This won her a free trip to the Chicago's World's Fair in 1932, where she met and had breakfast with Amelia Earhart. Miss Earhart presented Mama with an inscribed Elgin Platinum Watch - Mama's other prize for canning the most green beans. [This was in the early Fall after Miss Earhart's first solo flight across the Atlantic on May 20, 1932.]

Mother graduated high school with start A's, was Class Valedictorian and gave the graduation speech at Batesville High School in 1933. Due to all her many high school achievements, she won a full 4-year scholarship to Bellhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi. Mama passed on her life-long love of learning to all her children and grandchildren. Both my brother, Michael, and I gave Valedictorian speeches at our high school graduations, and my daughter, Jessica, gave the Valedictorial Speech at her Junior High School graduation; but Mother was the only one of us to earn all "Straight A's"!

When her mother, Lillie, became sick and bed-ridden while Mama was still a very young girl, her mother taught her how to make patters and to sew. From that time one, she made all of the clothes for herself, her 3 sisters, and her mother. My mother was a beautiful and talented seamstress. She designed and made all my clothes so that I never had a store-bought outfit until after I went off to college. She continued to sew until Mama's sweet pretty blue eyes went blind in December 2002. When that happened, I'll always remember Mama asking me, "what will I do now, if I cannot sew?"

But God helped MOther to discover and to see that there are always many gifts in every disability and hardship that comes our way.

As a result of Mama's blindness, not only did God make it possible for me to be able to be with her for the rest of her years, even though my home has been in Illinois since 195, but there was an even greater gift yet to come when I discovered that Verizon charged every disabled person $2 for every local call and $6 for each long distance call plus $1 per minute for all call an Operator had to disal for them, even when no one answered the call.

So, on Mother's behalf, I filed a Complaint against Verizon of Florida with the FCC in September 2003, in order to get them to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1997, both of which require all phone companies to waive those extra fees for persons who are not able to dial their own phone calls.

Within 30 days, Verizon set up call centers for customers with special needs in all 50 states. now Verizon provides special services for all disabled people, not just those who are hearing or speech impaired. I'm working now with Verizon to get all phone companies and states to provide Voice-Activated Calling Devices for customers who need them, just as TDD/TTY equipement is provided free of charge to all speech and hearing-impaired people.

Mama now sees how God used her blindness to make it possible for her and I to be able to be together now for all her remaining years, as well as used Mama's blindness to help millions of disabled people all over America to now be able to have better and more indepedent access to phone service.

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