We honor here members, friends and supporters of the American Council of the Blind who have impacted our lives in many wonderful ways. If you would like to submit a notice for this column, please include as much of the following information as possible.
Name (first, last, maiden if appropriate)
City of residence (upon passing)
State/province of residence (upon passing)
Other cities/states/countries of residence (places where other blind people may have known this person)
Date of death (day if known, month, year)
ACB affiliation (local/state/special-interest affiliates or national committees)
Deaths that occurred more than six months ago cannot be reported in this column.
Richard E. “Rick” Belcher
Jan. 28, 1952 – Oct. 1, 2021
Richard E. Belcher, 69, of St. Louis, Mo., passed away on Oct. 1, 2021, in Las Vegas, Nev. Rick was born on January 28, 1952, to the late Edgar (Smokey) E. Belcher and Virginia (Nell) Belcher.
Blind since birth, Rick learned to read braille at a young age. His father was an officer in the military, so Rick moved around the country and abroad at an early age. His parents moved the family to Ravenden, Ark. in 1968. He was six when he started banging on the keys of a piano at an officer’s club where his father sometimes frequented. One day a blind guy came into the bar and played “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Rick was hooked on music from that point!
In 1991 Rick moved by himself to Little Rock, Ark., where he learned independent living skills at World Services for the Blind. He learned how to get around in a sighted world. He also learned the value of having access to information. A “MindsEye” listener since 1999, Rick enjoyed “Blindness and Disability Hour” and the interview show, “Ear to Ear.”
Music was Rick’s passion; rhythm ’n blues and rock ’n roll were his world. In Little Rock, Rick played music wherever he could. While visiting friends in St. Louis, Rick met Shelly, who later became his wife. Since Shelly was from St. Louis, they decided to make St. Louis their home. Rick auditioned and began playing music at BB’s Jazz, Blues, and Soups. After Shelly’s passing two years after they married, Rick picked himself up and with his friend, Mitch Watley, formed the St. Louis Funk Brothers band. The duo performed at nursing homes and adult day centers.
Rick also met Meryl Shecter while in Little Rock, Ark., in 1994, but lost contact for about 24 years. While attending the ACB national convention in St. Louis in July 2018, their paths crossed again, and from that point they were inseparable. For the last three years of Rick’s life, they talked multiple times daily and enjoyed their long-distance relationship. They also traveled many times to see each other in St. Louis or Baltimore, Md., and their last trip was a road trip to Las Vegas, Nev., a place that Rick always wanted to visit. They spent almost one month together on the road, at various casinos in Las Vegas and a one-day trip to Manhattan Beach, Calif. Rick had a lot of fun and enjoyed every moment, and he loved that it was happening with Meryl by his side.
Rick was preceded in death by his wife, Shelly Belcher, and his parents, Edgar (Smokey) and Virginia (Nell) Belcher. He is survived by his siblings Robert (Wanda) Belcher, James (Cordelia) Belcher, John (Tammy) Belcher, Patricia (Tracy) Belcher and JoAnn (Brooks) Harris; nieces, nephews, friends and his beloved fiancée Meryl Shecter of Windsor Mill, Md. Rick was laid to rest Oct. 16, 2021 in the James Cemetery of Ravenden Springs, Ark.
Billie Jean Keith
Former Virginia resident and ACB staff member Billie Jean Bridges Hill Keith, 83, died Sept. 27, 2021, in The Villages, Fla.
Billie Jean was born on July 24, 1938, to Wallace and Ethel Bridges, in Winona, Miss.
She lived in several cities, including New York, N.Y.; London, England; and Jackson, Miss., before landing in Arlington, Va.
While in Mississippi, Billie Jean was an active member of the Mississippi Council of the Blind. She worked for the Radio Reading Service of Mississippi. After moving to Virginia, she was an active member of the Northern Virginia Council of the Blind and the Council of Citizens with Low Vision International. Billie Jean was a life member of ACB and served on the board of publications.
Billie Jean worked for the Blinded Veterans Association, the National Council on Disability, and the American Council of the Blind. While at the National Council, she analyzed and proposed policies related to employment, education, long-term services and other areas critical to people with disabilities. She retired, but then worked as a peer counselor for the ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia, where she encouraged people who are blind or had other disabilities to set goals and achieve their highest potential.
Billie Jean was an award-winning author. Her novel, “A Kiss for a Yankee Dime” (2011) is available in audio format on NLS BARD.
Billie Jean is survived by her son, Thomas Hill; her daughter, Caroline Fortenberry, and 3 grandchildren, Haleigh, Natalie, and Anna Fortenberry.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Raymond “Bud” Keith. Bud and Billie Jean married in the summer of 1995 and are laid to rest together in Columbia Gardens Cemetery in Arlington, Va.
Ann Kathleen Parsons
Reprinted from “The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle,” Oct. 6, 2021.
Ann Kathleen Parsons was born on February 9, 1953 in Olean, N.Y., and died peacefully on Oct. 5, 2021 after a long battle with cancer. She was 68.
Ann settled in Brighton at a young age. She is predeceased by her parents George and Jane Parsons and is survived by her cousin Linda Stanko and numerous friends.
A graduate of St. Bonaventure University, Ann went on to establish Portal Tutoring, which supplied tutoring in braille as well as the use of the computer for people who are blind. Ann was actively involved in numerous activities: Rochester Oratorio Society (40 years), church choir at Our Lady Queen of Peace, book club, writers club (published a book, “The Demmies”), a board member of the American Council of the Blind of New York, as well as a sci-fi club. Despite being blind from birth, Ann took several overseas singing tours with the Rochester Oratorio Society as well as three stints in India tutoring blind students in the use of the computer.
A Mass of Christian Burial was held on Oct. 16 at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to one of the following organizations: Rochester Oratorio Society, 1050 East Ave., Rochester, NY 14607; Lollypop Farm, 99 Victor Rd., Fairport, NY 14450; and Our Lady Queen of Peace Church, 601 Edgewood Ave., Rochester, NY 14618. To share a memory of Ann or send condolences to the family, visit www.anthonychapels.com.