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City honors Omar Blair as hero to blacks and hearing impaired

By Annette Espinoza
Denver Post
12/21/03

During World War II, Omar Blair suffered hearing loss after a window he was standing near exploded in Naples, Italy.

The former Denver school board president and Tuskegee Airman was given a tribute Saturday for his vision, dedication and determination in starting the Greater Park Hill Sertoma Club, an organization that focuses on helping the hearing impaired.

Blair, 85, was congratulated by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, who proclaimed Saturday "Omar D. Blair Day."

"He's clearly a hero to many," Hickenlooper said.

The tribute was held in a building that was named partly after Blair in April, the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library at 24th and Welton streets. Elvin Caldwell is a longtime Denver political figure.

Blair and others started the Greater Park Hill Sertoma Club on Dec. 13, 1985, in the basement of the Owls Club, an African-American service organization. They were helped by the mostly white members of the Arapahoe Sertoma Club.

"It was Omar's vision," said Gregory Anderson, one of the founding charter members.

The northeast Denver Sertoma chapter organizes hearing tests for newborns at Denver Health Medical Center and collects hearing aids that are distributed for free to the poor. In addition to distributing hearing instruments, they are active in other community affairs.

On Saturday, club members delivered Christmas baskets to more than a dozen needy families.

"You live and try to make life better for others," Blair said.

Blair served as club president from 1992 to 1993 and served as central Colorado district governor of Sertoma.

He was instrumental in getting the club to reach honor status and he has served on many committees.

His work in Sertoma has been recognized by Sertoma International.

"Blair is one of those people in life who don't just talk about doing great things, but did it," said Bill Stanage Jr., international president of Sertoma.

Today, there are 22,000 Sertoma Clubs in the United States, Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico and Russia whose mission is to help millions with speech, hearing and language disorders.

Denver has 18 Sertoma Clubs, Colorado Springs has 24 and there are eight elsewhere in Colorado, according to Sertoma Club officials.

Joining Blair at the tribute Saturday was his wife, Jeweldine; son, Omar Drew III, who also is hearing impaired; and other family members.

Friends, members of the Tuskegee Airmen and community leaders also paid tribute. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black pilots in the Army Air Forces during World War II.

"He's a legacy in our community," said Councilwoman Elbra Wedgeworth, who represents District 8. "Omar opened a lot of doors for us."

 

 
 

Help Kids Hear is a site dedicated to helping parents of deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) children. We are parents of hard of hearing kids and simply want to "give back" to the community. We welcome your comments, questions & suggestions. Please drop us a note at info@helpkidshear.org.