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Ron Hooper has written two amazing memoirs about his life. The historical documents are full of anecdotes, both happy and sad, that outline his life and give readers the opportunity to learn so much about the history of country Victoria and Melbourne in the mid to late 1900s. There is so much we can all learn from Ron’s life and how he coped with the challenges of losing his sight. Ron is an inspiration to all of us.
Below you can read some extracts from Ron’s two documents, which span across 70 pages.
Ron Hooper was born on the 5th of November 1940. It was a significant day because it was Melbourne Cup Day and his father's birthday. For the first five years of his life, Ron lived on a farm at Kanumbra, in the northeast region of Victoria. His childhood was filled with a mix of experiences, some of which were quite challenging. At the age of 18 months, Ron nearly died because he had pinks disease. But with the love and support of his mother and his Aunt Pearl, he made a full recovery by the age of two. Pinks disease is also known as acrodynia; it is mercury poisoning during childhood.
Shortly after Ron’s birth, the family moved to Koriella. At Koriella, Ron’s house was opposite the railway station and the sheep yard. Ron has fond memories of the sheep being loaded onto the train. He and his sister, Lois enjoyed playing in the sheep yard and the nearby sawmill where firewood was cut and then sent to Melbourne on the train.
Daphne, Ron’s mother, managed the neighbourhood post office, which was located in their own home. Ron has vivid memories of customers ringing the bell, and his mother promptly going downstairs to serve them.
When Ron started at the Alexandra School, he went on the school bus that conveniently stopped outside his house along with the children from Spring Creek Road. In the wintertime, they had hot cocoa on arrival and again at playtime. After school, the Spring Creek Road children picked up their bikes from Ron’s house and rode home. Later, the family packed up and moved to Alexandra where they lived until Ron was 11 or 12 years of age.
Ron continued his education at Yarck School for another couple of years until he finally left school around the age of 14.
Ron became interested in blind cricket, and he played in various teams and tournaments. In 1965 to 1966, he was selected to play in in a carnival in Brisbane, where his team emerged as the winners.
Eventually Ron moved to Melbourne and began a new chapter of his life as a blind person. With support from the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind (RVIB), Ron learned how to use the long cane and navigate the streets of Melbourne. He also learned how to use the public transport system. At first, he completely relied on the guidance of a mobility teacher. Gradually, he gained confidence to venture out on his own knowing the teacher was discreetly following him to ensure his safety.
Braille lessons were another part of his education. At first, the tactile dots felt overwhelming, but he persevered and in no time, he learned how to read and write in Braille. The RVIB provided Ron with tools to help him continue doing the things he enjoyed. That’s when he discovered the joy of Talking Books.
Ron made many friends at the RVIB. One of them was Coralie, who was working at the institute. They enjoyed spending time together and travelling by tram or train to visit each other’s families. They also enjoyed going to live shows, movies and free entertainment at the Myer Music Bowl. Ron and Coralie’s relationship flourished and they got engaged in 1967.
They had an engagement party at the Reservoir Civic Centre that was attended by family and friends. Immediately after the engagement party, they made plans for their wedding.
Ron’s final words in his memoir, ‘My Life’ are;
Saturday the 2nd of November - I woke up and it was our Wedding Day, “this was my last day as a Single Man”.