Immediately after graduation from Marygrove, Rosemary DeLaurentiis Blaszkiewicz undertook what was to be a life mission: teaching the blind and helping their families. Though retired from teaching, it is what she continues to do to this day.
However, the defining moment that set Blaszkiewicz on this path came much earlier. She remembers the exact day in seventh grade at Holy Redeemer, Detroit. “Sister Annacletus, IHM, put up a vocation bulletin board. I pored over the choices and was immediately drawn to the section on Special Education for the Blind. I decided on my future that very day,” says Blaskiewicz.
Richard Clay, who has been totally blind since age two, writes, “The commitment and professionalism that Mrs. Blaszkiewicz radiated as my high school (Northwestern) teacher consultant had a profound impact on my personal development. Her unyielding support and guidance during this scary transitional period motivated me to continue to excel academically and enabled me to graduate in l990 as my school’s valedictorian.”
He continues, “Over the past three decades, she has distinguished herself as one of Metro Detroit’s top community leaders in the blindness field in addition to her legacy as an expert teacher consultant on the job.” Clay, now a teacher himself, says Blaszkiewicz recently helped him secure funding and logistical support to open the Saturday Institute for the Blind that he hopes will serve as a prototype for the rest of the country.
Wilma Seelye, a retired Mobility Instructor for the Detroit Board of Education, remarked, “I observed her compassion for the students as what we had in common. These children were extremely impaired yet her tenderness and concern filled the room. Her ability to understand the parents’ anguish was palpable. Her compassion triggered many departmental changes to improve the education for all the visually impaired students.”
After her retirement, Blaszkiewicz agreed to work for a small non-profit called ROPARD, which deals with retinopathy caused by premature birth and related diseases. She is the Parent Advisor at the Children’s Low Vision Resource Center in Royal Oak and helps families with visually impaired children from all over the United States and more than 40 countries. She supplies contact information, explains the best methods for stimulating vision, demonstrates adaptive techniques and helps to decipher medical information.
According to ROPARD Outreach Director Paula Korelitz, “Rosemary is never one to praise her own accomplishments. In her unobtrusive, quiet way, she can move mountains, but never seeks the glory of recognition for her accomplishments.”
In 2002, Blaszkiewicz was elected to the Board of Directors of Seedlings Braille Books for Children. Debra Bonde, Executive Director of Seedlings, says, “I have witnessed her passion to improve services and resources for blind children worldwide...Rosemary does not accept average goals. She insists on reaching for the top. Even though Seedlings is serving thousands of blind children, Rosemary looks for ways to serve more.”
Asked about her accomplishments, Blaszkiewicz replies, “Without a doubt, my family makes me most proud. I am proud of my marriage of almost 40 years to a wonderful man and the fact that we have three sons and a daughter who are all caring adults and contributing in their communities.” She also expresses pride in her work by stating, “It was not an easy profession. There were many times when the district did not or could not assist the program. However, with the help of my fellow teachers, parents and eye doctors, we always seemed to find a way to get the eye exams, the glasses, the magnifiers, the telescopes, the canes, the talking computers and whatever else was needed.”
She credits Marygrove. “The ongoing stress on social awareness and our obligation to others in the community has always been a part of who I am and what I do. I tried to pass this philosophy on to my children. They learned at an early age that they needed to share and care for others.”
Daughter Laura McCloud recalls summers when children with multiple disabilities stayed with the family as part of a respite care program. “We didn’t see the disabilities in a negative sense because we were taught that different was just different and that was okay.”
The family convenes every Sunday to enjoy Blaszkiewicz’ delicious Italian cooking, reinforcing one of the life lessons she’s taught. Son David Blaszkiewicz explains that lesson: “Make your family a priority. I think I can speak for all of us kids when I say that we have always felt we were the most important part of her life.”