"Be happy"


    My name is Patricia Ann Parker Porreca.  I have two hearing sisters  Betty and Paulette, and one hearing brother, Jim.  I was raised on a farm ten miles from Grinnell, Iowa.   Jim is oldest.  I am second, Betty third, and five years later, Paulette was born.  My mother was Norwegian, and worked both as a housewife and at the telephone company in Marshalltown, Iowa as a Supervisor.  My mother passed away on May 23, 1993 due to cancer of the liver. My dad was Irish and was a farmer many years.  He also  worked several other jobs until he became policeman during the last  three years of his life.  He passed away January 3, 1970, due to heart attack.

    I was born in Marshalltown, Iowa in 1943 with a mild spastic condition and nerve damage to both ears.  My mother took me to several doctors because I was sick many times.  She rocked me every night in the rocking chair because I cried during the night.  The doctor told my mother to give me medicine to make me sleep.  She gave it to me once and I slept all night.  It looked like I was dead.  She did not like it at all and threw the medicine away.  She continuing rocking me in the rocking chair every night until I was three years old. My parents took me to a special doctor on Long Island, NY and the doctor tested me and asked me to put puzzles together.  I did it perfectly.  The doctor told my parents that I was very smart and deaf.  My mother sent me to Cerebral Palsy Camp in Des Moines, Iowa for six weeks.  I stayed there and my mother came to visit me every day.  The doctor gave me a shot to relax my muscles.  I went to swimming with a life jacket everyday and they gave me high heels on my shoes to learn how to walk.  Once a week, the heel was slightly reduced.  The therapists rubbed my Achilles tendon behind my feet to relax the muscles for six weeks.  Finally I could walk without any help.  My mother went to Grinnell College and met Mrs. Velma Hiser, Associate Professor of Speech. Mrs. Hiser gave me speech therapy twice a week until I was four years old.

    At the age of five years I went to the Iowa School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs for one year and I was the best student in the kindergarten class.  At the time of the awards program as I was walking up to the stage, I fell down on the steps and got up to get an award for the best student in class.  My mother saw all students who used sign language but  couldn’t lip-read and talk.  My mother asked Mrs. Velma Hiser about a special school.  Mrs. Hiser recommended a private school, Saint Joseph Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis, Missouri.

    I was a student at Saint Joseph Institute for the Deaf for eight years.  My first teacher, Mrs. Enid Jones, was from Australia.   She was a very good teacher and I learned how to read, write and speak.  She taught me the sounds for “K” and “G” which were hard for me.  She wrote a letter to my mother and asked permission for me to stay with her at her home during the weekends once in a while.  My mother said yes!  I enjoyed being with her family during the weekends my first year at St. Joseph.  When the school closed in June, Mrs. Jones invited my mother and me to stay overnight at her house.  Then the next morning my mother drove me to Iowa and I spent the summer on the farm with my family.

    My first year at St. Josephs I received a new hearing aid for the first time.  Now I could hear the toilet running, hear my voice, and hear when I walked.  The dining room was very noisy.  Everything was very quiet until I got a new hearing aid.  It was an old fashioned one, large and powerful I enjoyed having it.  All my friends talked and played together, and we had no problem at all.  No one made fun of me!  After school we played on the playground, on the swings and we played baseball.   Later, there was Home Cooking class and Sewing class after school.  I really liked to bake cookies, cakes and so forth.  Sister Anne Bernadine taught the girls and she was a very good teacher in home cooking class.  I did not like to sew because it was hard for me to put in the needle and thread it.  I did not like it at all but I sewed a skirt.   Also, I learned how to roller skate and practiced again and again, and felI down for the first time.  I liked to  roller skate, but not to  fall down.  In sixth and  seventh grade I learned ballet dancing after school.  There was a big ballet performance called “The Wizard of Oz.”   We practiced and practiced for the show.  I was dressed like Indian, and danced with a group of girls.  It was just perfect and we made no mistakes.  My mother and Mrs. Jones came to see me in the play and they were very proud.

    Every summer I went home on the farm to be with my family.  I learned how to feed and water ducks, Canadian geese, rabbits, chickens and how to collect eggs.  I saw my mother cut off a chicken’s head and the chicken fly away and flop until dead.  She put the chicken into a pail with boiled water and pulled all the feathers off.  She cut it up and cooked it for dinner.  It was so good to eat and the chicken was so fresh!  I helped my mother to can corn, peas, green beans  and strawberries from the garden.   We had apple trees too.  We canned apples, made applesauce, baked apple pies and apple crisp.

    During my last year at St Joseph, they had a new girl’s basketball team and we got new uniforms. I enjoyed playing basketball and we were second place in the conference.   If our team had a high score, the coach let me play for the last few minutes.

    During my years at St. Josephs,  I learned about the Catholic religion and went to Mass every day during my eight years.  I decided to become a Catholic and I pray every day and attend Mass every Sunday.  Sister Ann Rose was my favorite teacher my last year at St. Joseph.  She was principal of our school.  She was very kind, happy and a wonderful person.  When I graduated from the eighth grade at St. Joseph, I missed my friends, classmates, and the sisters too.

    After graduation from the eighth grade I went home to the farm with my family.  I attended public school in Newburg, Iowa close to my home.  I learned typing, science, math, and English.  I made friends and they were very nice to me.  One of my friends, Diane, invited me to spend the night with her family at the farm.  Diane rode her horse and I rode another horse.  The horse ran so fast and I dropped the rope.   I screamed and thought that I would fall down on the muddy road.  Somehow my horse kept running faster than Diane’s horse!  However, the horse did stop by some miracle.  I jumped off the horse and was not hurt it all.  I was relieved! Diane hugged me and was glad that I was alright!  Diane and I rode the horse back to her home.  We talked and laughed a lot.  We had a good time!

    I went to Grinnell High School for four years where my sister Betty attended.   I made friends and everyone was kind and nice to me.  I joined Pep Club and enjoyed going to football and basketball games during my high school years.   I took four years of typing class.  My teacher, Mr. Youngbeck, was funny and a good teacher. We  got along fine.  Sometimes I teased him and he enjoyed it. There was no interpreter at all!! It was pretty hard but I made it okay with my homework, and sometimes Betty helped.  On my senior year  Betty got married and moved away, and I finally made the honor roll all year on my own.  On graduation night the principal called my name while I received my diploma - Many of my classmates clapped their hands.

    In Iowa I took the Iowa driver license test twice and it was very hard.  I was not able to pass it.

    After graduation from Grinnell high school I went to Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C.   I made new friends and l learned sign language with 20 new students for the first time.  It took me three months to learn all the sign language and it helped when the teachers used sign language. I had no problem lip-reading.  It was interesting to make new friends from all over the U.S.  Everyone was so nice to me and I had no problems.  I enjoyed staying with my friends at Gallaudet.   The girls asked me to go out sightseeing around Washington.  It was fun!!   I enjoyed being at Gallaudet College during the first year.

    In 1966 I got a new job at the Iowa Veterans’ Home in Marshalltown, I worked there for seven and one-half years.  I learned so many things, how to file, type letters, and deliver messages.  I got along just fine with all my employees and friends.  On the last day of work they gave me a big party and potluck supper with all office workers.  I knew I would miss my friends and they were very nice!

    In 1973 I got another job at Civil Service Commission, Washington, D.C.  I was file clerk and worked very hard and they asked me to work overtime on Saturday.  I made very good money, better than at the Iowa Veterans’ Home.  I lived in an apartment all by myself which was close to food shopping and bus transportation both to work and home.  I joined CHI club to enjoy meeting new friends and to have some social time.  I really like it but I missed my family in Iowa, too!   I came home for Christmas and summer vacation. I got the “Topper Award” for outstanding file clerk at the Civil Service Commission  in 1974.    In 1975 I met Alan at a deaf club and we dated.  We got married in 1976.    I was surprised to see that Alan could drive a car.  I wanted to take driving lessons at Gallaudet College but they told me to take the Maryland driver’s test.  I studied very hard and took the test.  I passed it for the first time and they gave me a driver’s permit license.  The Maryland test was easier than the Iowa test.  I took driver’s training with a private teacher at Gallaudet.  I drove the car for the first time and I was too stiff and nervous.  The teacher told me to relax while I drove. I practiced driving every Saturday morning for two hours of a time for six weeks.  On the last day I drove the car with Alan by myself.  I tried to drive Alan’s car but his car was too big for me. I didn’t drive it at all.

    In 1980 I miscarried my first girl.  Then in 1982 I got pregnant and  my second child was born on April 18, 1982.  Holly Roth, nurse assistant, helped me to breath during childbirth. I wanted natural childbirth.  The doctor said that I must have shot in my back, and two nurses held me very tight while giving me the shot perfectly!  My beautiful baby girl was born and her name is Priscilla Inga.  I breast fed her for one year and one-half years.  At first, it was hard for me to carry her.  My mother helped me a lot and stayed with us for five weeks.   I enjoyed being a mother to Priscilla and took one year and two months off from my work.  Then I went back to work.

    In July 1985, I got another job at Export-Import Bank of the United States as a file clerk for three months. Then in November, 1985 I got a permanent job as Clerk.  Later my boss was trying to encourage me to take the typing test.  I took the typing test twice and finally passed with 40 words per minute with two errors.  My position changed to a secretary.  I got promoted twice and got an outstanding rating award in 1991.  I enjoyed typing and filing and I learned to do payroll on the computer.  Everyone is very nice and professional at work.  I’m still working there.

    In 1995 I bought a nice condo in Gaithersburg, Maryland. It has two bedrooms and two bathrooms, living and dining rooms, washer and dryer, and a kitchen.  It has a large swimming pool and community house.  It is close to the Giant Grocery Store, bus transportation at Shady Grove Metro (2 miles), and it is one half mile to the Lake Forest Mall.  It is a perfect place for me.  In 1997 I had a surprise retirement party for my friends Richard and Frances at the community house all afternoon with 100 guests and 13 hostesses.  We enjoyed it so much and it was a lot of fun!

    Priscilla is now 19 years old and graduated from Magruder High School last June 4, 2000 and she got three scholarship awards.  She became a member of the National Honor Society in her Junior and Senior year.   I am very proud of her.  She is planning to be an elementary teacher in the future.   On June 17, 2000 Priscilla got married to Ben Hicks.  The wedding was small and  so beautiful in Virginia.   I enjoyed raising her all through  the years.

    I am happy, enjoy cooking, traveling, drawing, painting with oil a little bit, and also, I like to do needle embroidery on plastic frames.  Most of the time I like to play games on the computers at home.  I enjoy it and the E-mail at home and work are very nice.  I enjoy meeting new and old friends, too!  Janet Noyes and I talked about Cerebral Palsy & Deaf Organization meeting and I told her about my home the first time in 1998.  I am still active on Cerebral Palsy and Deaf Organization, socials and meetings.  I am still working at Export-Import Bank of the U.S. and hope to continue working there for nine more years and then I will retire.

    I thank my mother and sisters who helped me through all the years when I was growing up.  I thank God for the blessings that He gave me.

Written by Patty Porreca.


    Luwilda Parker was interested in me writing this dramatic story of love, hope, prayers, superhuman courage, faith, tears and sorrow.  She also wanted me to relate my education and adjustment to a hearing world of four children.   It was her life goal to give to the world her knowledge of a handicapped child and how to deal with her skill of success after thirty years of hardship and prayers.

    Love, courage, superhuman courage, not failure but triumph with gift from God Almighty.  Patty was victim of cerebral palsy which had to do with muscular coordination.   Hers was a physical damage, one that controlled her balance, her left arm and nerve damage to both ears.  At the age of three, Patty could not hold her head up, sit alone, walk and had no speech.  We later found that Patty was deaf.   Eight years of private school at St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf shaped Patty into a most beautiful well poised daughter, now able to dance, play basketball, hold a job, marry, and be a productive member of society.

    Most important of all was for Patty to be included in the family as normally as possible.  Patience, understanding, teaching, school, but most of all love.  Love reaching to the depth of her soul; to know someone cares and you are important.  Praise for each accomplishment, encouragement you are okay, look what you can accomplish!   Push ahead always to higher learning.  Never give up, disappointments will come but they come to everyone.  Don’t stop, keep on, there will be a glorious day of accomplishment.  Unless each one of us work at it we never accomplish anything in life.  But you have love, radiance, beauty, a good brain and knowledge.  Push ahead there is a trade and a job for everyone.  You will get one.  Patty has top art ability.

Written by Patty’s mother, Luwilda Parker