“How are you doing? Where are we going for lunch?” was Joel Bauer’s usual greeting, and it was always accompanied by a big smile. His positive attitude and optimistic outlook on life never faltered, although he had many challenges during his life. The biggest challenge, the event that changed his life forever, came in 1990, when he was the victim of a home invasion. Joel was at home when two men entered his home and shot him in the face. They left him lying on the floor while they searched for valuables. Finding none, they took their frustration out on him by putting a second bullet in his back, leaving Joel blinded and paralyzed. Those men were never arrested.
Joel was born in Belleville, Illinois on December 4, 1943, and died on April 1, 2018, in Sarasota, Florida. Joel as a youth could be found playing baseball or basketball. He grew up with three brothers and one sister. In 1961 he graduated from Cathedral High School and in 1963 from Belleville Junior College. After leaving home, he married and raised four children while working for McDonnell-Douglas and with the Chrysler Corporation. He relocated with his family to Ferguson, Missouri where he was an avid golfer and tennis player. Joel enjoyed traveling with his family, especially visiting national parks. This life, however, came to an abrupt end in 1990.
After his recovery from the surgeries, which were necessitated by the gunshot wounds, he started on his new life. His first wife left him and he decided to move to Venice, Florida for his rehabilitation. He said, “If I have to be in training, I want to be in a warmer environment.” Joel enrolled into a class from what was formerly known as the Lighthouse of Manasota, where he learned how to function as a blind person. After completing this program, he began the settling-in process by remarrying, joining the Venice Chapter of the Florida Council of the Blind where he served as president and vice president, and served on several Venice city committees and commissions. Joel was one of the driving forces to get two audible traffic signals installed in the city of Venice. Every December he was almost a permanent fixture in front of the local grocery store, patiently ringing the bell for the Salvation Army. It was not uncommon to see him motoring around the city in his wheelchair.
Joel was a mentor for classes held in Venice by the Lighthouse of Manasota and he initiated a support group which continues to meet once a month at various restaurants in the area and provides support to the blind and visually impaired. His enthusiasm was evident when mentoring newly blinded people; his leadership skills were apparent when he was working with new members of our chapter.
Joel Bauer, a man who overcame numerous challenges and became a local legend, continues to have an influence on our chapter. Joel was, and is, the only life member of our chapter.
The South Sarasota County Council of the Blind is proud and honored to have Joel Bauer recognized as an ACB Angel!