Bobby Bobo: Success Personified

Bobby Bobo: Success Personified

Ask Bobby Bobo how he would describe his life, and he’d say he’s been blessed. However, when you learn some of the details, you might be amazed that he would use “blessed” to describe many of the events that have occurred during his time on earth. Bobby lost his sight at a young age, in spite of the fact that his mother moved to Washington, D.C. to get surgery on his eyes, which were affected with juvenile cataracts. Prior to moving to D.C., he was taken to Duke University Medical Center for treatment. {{more}} Bobby’s lack of sight has not stopped him from having an amazing story that is inspiring. Born to a single mom in Danville, Virginia, Bobby’s life has been filled with challenges. His mother married when Bobby was two years old; unfortunately, his stepfather was an alcoholic and was abusive and violent. Until he was nine or ten years old, Bobby thought Mr. Bobo was his biological father. Learning that he wasn’t his dad was a shocking experience for the young boy. Bobby’s life dramatically changed when he entered kindergarten and moved to a residential school for the blind in Baltimore, Maryland. He was schooled there until he graduated from high school. In spite of the fact that Bobby is a very intelligent individual, the school decided when he was eleven years old that he would be trained in the vending program. The school’s decision affected Bobby’s vocational path for years. However, Bobby realized how blessed he was to have spent a majority of his youth at school because, unlike his brothers and sisters, he rarely had to witness his stepfather’s abusive behavior. When Bobby was a senior in high school, his mother left, and no one knew where she was. It was seven years before Bobby and his siblings would see her again. Bobby’s brothers and sisters were placed at Junior Village, a residential facility for children who couldn’t live at home. On one occasion, Bobby nearly ended up being jailed, not because he had broken the law, but because the government had no place to put him. His stepfather had abandoned the family, and once when Bobby traveled from Baltimore to go home, no one was at the bus stop to take him to his residence. Bobby was taken to the Women’s Bureau and was processed to go to jail. Thankfully, Bobby’s Uncle David was found, and he rescued his nephew before Bobby was incarcerated. His siblings were in foster care, but their caregiver said she could not take care of a person who was blind, so Bobby went and lived with his Uncle David and Aunt Clarissa. Again, Bobby had to deal with alcoholism, as both his uncle and aunt consumed alcohol excessively. However, Bobby knew they cared about him, as they were the only family members that attended his graduation. Bobby later learned that his stepdad had moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut. One day, Bobby’s aunt received a phone call that would change his life. Bobby’s mother contacted his Aunt Teresa and informed her that she was living in Indian Head, Maryland with her new husband. Bobby’s mom visited his siblings at Jr. Village at a crucial time in their lives, as they were about to be separated and placed in three different foster homes. “A woman here claims to be your mother,” the children were informed. Bobby’s older sisters recognized her and started shouting and crying, thrilled to see the woman who was forced to leave them years earlier. Bobby was then picked up and they all moved to Indian Head. Bobby was thrilled that his family was reunited, but realized that if he wanted to achieve his goals, he would need to move back to the Washington, D.C. area. After moving back to his uncle’s home, he entered a six week pre-vocational training at the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, where he was trained to run a vending stand through the Randolph Sheppard Vending Program. He worked at Andrews Air Force Base for two years and then relocated to the David Taylor Model Basin in Carderock, Maryland. He spent 28 years in the vending program, and then his vocational life took a dramatic turn for the better. Bobby had become increasingly interested in the many ways that technology could improve the lives of the visually impaired. In 1995, he left the vending program to pursue a career as an assistive technology specialist. In 1996, he got a call from the Columbia Lighthouse Assistive Technology and was hired in June 1997; he has worked for them ever since. “I’ve found my calling,” Bobby said. “These are the good old days!” Bobby derives much satisfaction from improving the lives of those with visual disabilities. One customer was so thrilled when he learned about a scanner that would read books to him that he wept. Another customer, an n 80-year-old man who worked at the National Security Agency, had a stroke that left him blind. Bobby taught him about the Job Access with Speech software, and the man was thrilled that he would still be able to do his high-security job, decoding information from overseas. Bobby received a letter from the National Security Agency, thanking him for giving their employee an opportunity to have a second chance. Bobby is grateful for the travel that was a part of his job for several years, and has traveled to more than 30 cities, training the visually impaired to improve their lives through technology. “I’ve been everywhere from Honolulu, Hawaii to Boston, Massachusetts,” he said recently. He especially enjoyed visiting Seattle, Washington and Ogden, Utah. “I could feel the majesty of the mountains in Utah,” he said. In addition to his career, Bobby also has been given the opportunity to assist the visually impaired through his work to improve their lives. He was president of the board of directors for the Centers of Independent Living program “Independence Now”, which integrates the disabled into society. Bobby encourages those whom he assists to have a positive attitude about their situation. “You are ambassadors for all blind people,” he says. “You might be the only blind person that people will see.” He was also the chapter president of the Sligo Creek Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, which covers Pennsylvania and Montgomery County, for two years. Bobby met his wife, Linda while attending a convention for the National Federation of the Blind in Kansas City, Missouri in 1986 and they married in 1987. Linda is very supportive of Bobby’s efforts to live as independently as possible. She has worked at the Library of Congress for years, and, like Bobby, assists those with visual impairments. As was true with many of the turning points in his life, Bobby had a very challenging time getting married because of his birth certificate. His original birth certificate had his mother’s maiden name, but when the individual who made out the certificate saw his name, she assumed that the name “Bobby” was a nickname for “Barbara”. As a result, Bobby’s birth certificate stated his name was “Barbara Morton”. However, on the certificate it was stated that the baby was a “colored male”. His school records had his correct name, and Bobby had his name legally changed on his birth certificate so it would accurately reflect the correct information. This was a time-consuming and, at times, frustrating experience, but eventually the Montgomery County Court made the necessary changes. Bobby’s faith in God has given him the strength to succeed in spite of the many challenges in his life. He gave his life to God in 1967, when he was baptized at the 16th and Decatur Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. Bobby said that even in his younger years, he was positively influenced by the Christians in his life that helped him avoid the destructive lifestyles of others that he knew. He’s worked at the various congregations he’s attended as song leader and Bible teacher and has made many friends as a result of his involvement at church. Many are surprised upon learning about Bobby’s hobbies. As mentioned earlier, he doesn’t allow his visual impairment interfere in his desire to do as much as is possible. He’s played baseball, horseshoes and Frisbee and enjoys watching games on TV. In addition, he’s an avid reader of Braille and audio books. His love of people motivates Bobby and his wife to entertain in their spare time at their spacious townhouse in Silver Spring, Maryland. “I wanted to be involved,” he said. “I hated to sit on the sidelines.” Music has also played a major role in his life. He played the piano and organ since he was 12 years old. A picture of Bobby playing drums that he had received from a police organization ran in the Washington Post when he was young. Bobby describes as one of the highlights of his life the time that he met and worked with Stevie Wonder. When asked what challenges affected his life the most, Bobby said that dealing with racial prejudice as well as prejudice against the visually impaired have made his life difficult at various times. Although Bobby appreciates people’s concerns about his safety, his desire has always been to live as independent of a life as is possible. Bobby is an inspiration to the many family members, friends, co-workers and clients that he’s assisted. It’s easy to forget that he’s visually impaired because of the full life that he’s lived. I feel blessed that he’s been a friend of mine for approximately 40 years, and my prayer is that the Lord will continue to bless Bobby and Linda with healthy, productive lives.