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Joseph F. Clunk

Our April 1974 newsletter started off this line:

“In 1923 a blind man, Joseph Clunk, interested members of the Downtown Toledo Lions Club in forming an organization for service to blind people.”

This briefA man uses a signature guide to sign a paper, mention has completely reshaped the way that we think of our organization’s foundation.

Joseph Clunk was born in Lisbon, Ohio in 1895. He was born with a vision impairment, possibly amblyopia. After he attended Western Reserve University he suddenly lost his sight overnight in 1918. It is difficult to speculate on what condition Joseph had. He described it as the “lights went out,” and referenced a “congestion of the eyeball.” His pamphlet “Open letter to my newly blinded friend” makes reference to iritis possibly being the cause.

Joseph was a force of nature. People described him as being “inspired,” “energetic,” “outgoing,” and a “natural salesman.” He quickly became a relentless and passionate advocate for blind workers and blind rights for the next 40-plus years. He would later go on to work for a number of agencies, including; The Canadian National Institute for the Blind, The US Government as the first blind civil servant, The Philadelphia Association for the Blind, Enterprises for the Blind (in New Jersey), and the Maryland Workshop for the Blind.A man in an overcoat walks towards he camera. He is a white cane user.

In 1923 he was 28 years old. In the 5 years since he had become blind, he had already worked for the Cleveland Society for the Blind. He had also helped to found the Youngstown Society for the Blind, where he was the Executive Director. He had placed over 100 blind workers in jobs in Youngstown, Pittsburgh, and Toledo. He was known for his persuasiveness and his ability to inspire others to create change.

Joseph met with members of the Toledo Chamber of Commerce and Toledo Downtown Lions Club. And in 1923… two years before Lions International took on Blindness as one of their causes… he inspired the local Lions to create what would become The Toledo Society for the Blind and now know as The Sight Center of Northwest Ohio.