If you've ever been in Spooner's Economart grocery store's deli during the morning, you've probably seen a guy named Larry having coffee with various friends. Or you might remember all the years he sat in the front entrance of that same store during the Christmas holidays and rang bells for the Salvation Army, often working a ten-hour shift.
Picture him in his service uniform, and you might place him as a twenty-five-year member of the Honor Guard, attending funeral after funeral after funeral.
He might look familiar because he spent years taking donations for poppies to help support service organizations. Or, if you were visiting someone at a local nursing home, you might remember his booming voice as the caller for Bingo, or the driver of the home's van.
Larry Dullinger has spent much of his life volunteering after retiring from his job after twenty-six years with the post office in Antioch, Illinois.
In 1999, Larry contracted shingles that went into his eye. He spent two months on the sofa adding drops several times a day and being as immobile as possible. Despite the constant care, he lost the vision in that eye.
Two years ago, his "good" eye developed macular degeneration. A condition where the eye no longer sees straight ahead, but only on the sides. Believe it or not, that was the good news. This legal blindness qualified him for a cornea transplant on the eye that had been infected with the shingles virus due to the excellent physical care he gave it.
It was August in 2017 that he checked into the hospital for an outpatient surgery that restored his vision after being declared legally blind for two years. During those years he could not drive, which made it hard because he lived alone way outside of Spooner.
His life of volunteering and coffee drinking that had been denied him for so long was back on. He now legally drives, but only during the daytime hours, and he needs a magnifying glass to read the small print.
Doing a bit of research, Larry found the name and address of the service that connected him with a donor. He let them know he would like to write to the family to say thank you and letting them know how much his restored vision meant to him.
The company sent several documents, one of which stated that he might never hear from the donor's family for various reasons. All he knew for sure is that his donor was age 52 and from the Boston area.
He decided to write anyway. This is the bulk of his letter.
My name is Larry, and I received a cornea transplant donated by your family member on August 24, 2017.
It changed my life.
I am an 82-year-old Air Force Veteran, having served from 1956-1960 in Germany.
Due to a case of shingles, I lost the vision in my one eye. I then developed macular degeneration in the other and was declared legally blind for two years. I am a single man who lives alone in a small town in northern Wisconsin.
As a blind person, I had to give up my active life full of volunteering. On a routine trip to see my doctor, he said that I was eligible for an eye transplant. Thanks to the generosity of your family member donating their cornea, I am able to drive again and renew my lifestyle, seeing life through my donor's eye.
Before the transplant, I had no quality of life. Now I have a reason to live. My thanks and gratitude goes out to this generous person who gave me this precious gift."
This letter, which was recently signed and mailed to the service that coordinated the transplant recipient and donor, will be sent to the donor's family by the company.
Larry is anxiously waiting for a reply.
DrydenWire.com will post it, if and when it comes.
About The Author
Diane is a features writer for DrydenWire.com. She started her fifteen-year career as a features writer for the Washburn County Register and has written for assorted newspapers and national magazines. She has also just released the third novel in her Chicago series of books – Scott Free in Chinatown. You can visit Diane's website at www.dianedryden.com or her facebook page at facebook.com/authordianedryden.