Good Life

Aaronsburg man doesn’t let blindness slow him down

Ron Ream, who received an award from the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services in Harrisburg last month, poses in his wood shop in Aaronsburg on Tuesday.
Ron Ream, who received an award from the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services in Harrisburg last month, poses in his wood shop in Aaronsburg on Tuesday. adrey@centredaily.com

Here’s the thing about power tools — they’re very, very sharp.

And heavy too, at least judging by the size of the equipment eating up space in Ron Ream’s barn-turned-wood-working emporium.

Ream was gracious enough to give me — a guy who once nicked himself on a rolling pin— a rundown of some of the grizzlier looking monsters on the floor, behemoths that otherwise answer to deceptively cute little names such as “band saw” or “edger.”

I’m impressed — not because Ron Ream has been blind for the past 40 years — but because I have a met a man who can assemble furniture without exchanging Christmas cards with the dude on the other end of the Ikea crisis hotline.

I was always lucky I could work with my hands.

Ron Ream

Earlier, he had modestly sidestepped whatever mythology I was already beginning to build up in my head courtesy of a vivid imagination and a diet subsisting of too many comic books.

“I’ve nicked myself already but not bad,” Ream said.

Similarly, he assured me that he does occasionally bump into things around the house, even though in the short time we’ve been together I’ve only ever seen him move gracefully — from the front door to the island in the kitchen, from there to the dining room table and back — all without the assistance of a cane.

Ream knows this house, an acquaintance he undoubtedly made while helping to build the sucker. All of the doors and trim were crafted in his workshop, the hardwood floors were installed working side by side with his brother.

It’s a handsome looking place.

“I was always lucky I could work with my hands,” Ream said.

Prior to losing his sight in a hunting accident, Ream logged time in the Navy and an auto body repair shop here in Aaronsburg. One of the first things he did after getting out of the hospital was build his daughters a picnic table.

That seemed to go well enough, so he followed it up with other projects — this time for hire.

Ream has had four decades to settle into his reality and seems comfortable there. He’s not a big reader, but knows Braille well enough to keep playing cards.

“Over the years you just progress and get a little better,” Ream said.

People that have a disability like that, there are things you can do.

Ron Ream

In May, Ream traveled to Harrisburg to receive an award from the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services recognizing — nay, celebrating — his ability to live independently.

After the accident, the bureau hooked Ream up with instructors who taught him the finer points of cane work and cooking without sight.

He’s returned the favor a couple times throughout the years, helping a blind boy with an interest in woodworking ply his hand the trade.

Sightlessness, after all, is no reason to sit around the house.

“People that have a disability like that, there are things you can do,” Ream said.

Case in point, the chest of drawers he fashioned for a grandchild en route is pretty much done. With that off of his plate, Ream has more time to harvest the potatoes that will be soon be sprouting in his backyard garden, go fishing with his brother in Canada or serve as president of the board at the Millheim Fire Company.

None of it may be quite as exciting as an hour spent with the band saw, but even Ron Ream deserves a day off.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

  Comments