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Shine, advocate for the blind, dies at 94


– Vision. Commitment. Heart. Passion.

Those are the words used to describe the life of Frances Kaye Shine, who died Saturday at the age of 94.

Shine was devoted to helping the handicapped – especially the blind – and spent much of her life serving those less fortunate.

Mother to four sons, her compassion and generosity influenced the boys at a young age and into adulthood.

The oldest, Robert, is an obstetrician in Laramie, Wyo.; Tom recently retired as vice president of Reebok in Indianapolis; and Larry and Steve are both attorneys in Fort Wayne.

“My mother was a very compassionate woman,” Steve Shine, Allen County Republican Party chairman, said.

As a young boy, Shine often visited his mother’s workplace after school. His mother worked as the associate director at the Anthony Wayne Rehabilitation Center and as executive director of the Allen County League for the Blind and Disabled.

The boys would accompany their mother when she visited families in their homes and distributed books written in Braille, he said.

“As a young man, I was with her when she visited the Indiana State Prison and instructed inmates how to type in Braille,” Shine said.

The inmates’ work allowed books for the sight-impaired to be mass produced in Indiana.

“She truly believed that compassion was a way of life and that’s how she lived her life,” Steve Shine said.

Those who worked with Francis Shine were also in awe of her visionary efforts and drive.

“She was very special and we loved her,” said David Nelson, president and CEO of the Allen County League for the Blind and Disabled. “She was the matriarch of this organization.”

As a volunteer, Shine helped start the league in 1950 and later served 25 years as the organization’s executive director – “the longest-serving executive director in our history,” Nelson said.

Her innovation and visionary efforts were recognized in the 1980s after she obtained a federal grant which helped establish the first independent living program for the blind and disabled in the state, Nelson said.

“That event changed the course of this organization for decades and still does today,” he said.

After Shine left her post as executive director, she continued to serve on the board of directors for years, Nelson said.

“She never lost her heart and passion for this organization, and she had the biggest heart of anyone I’ve every known,” he said.

Shine’s enthusiastic career of achievements and contributions was recognized by the American Council of the Blind of Indiana in 1999, when she received the Dr. Hank Hofstetter award.

Shine also received a Presidential Citation for her work from President Lyndon B. Johnson and served on the Indiana Governor’s Commission for the Blind and Disabled under two administrations.

She established the Northeast Indiana Reading Service after directing a local program which used voice recordings that enabled the blind to listen to rather than read books. Shine was the first person in Indiana certified to teach the Opticon system, which allowed the blind to read through sensory perception.

Born in Fort Wayne in 1918, Shine received a bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Southern Illinois. She was an accomplished pianist and a member of the Temple Achduth Vesholom in Fort Wayne.

In addition to her sons and two daughters-in-law, Shine is survived by 17 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.