My Hero: Mark Eggerding

Submitted by Barbara Miklos, Burr Ridge, Illinois

Mark Eggerding

Mark lost the gene pool. He had to stop driving when he was 36 and was totally blind by the age of 42. That's how Mark began the second half of his life...without the ability to see, he was now "handicapped." But that word has never really been applicable to his life.


Connection

I grew up with him.

Positive character traits

  • Perseverance
  • Courage
  • Lack of self pity
  • Work ethic
  • Positive attitude
  • Ability to turn a negative into a positive
  • Great sense of humor
  • Finding the good in a difficult situation

Mark's story—losing the gene pool, but winning in life

Mark was raised in a loving family which included his mother, father and three siblings, two brothers and one sister. His grandmother also lived with them. He went to school, played sports, graduated from college and went to work. When he was 16 his father died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 52. Ten years later at the age of 26 he was pheasant hunting with his brother-in-law, John. It was getting dark and they were returning to the car. John turned and saw Mark standing still down the road. He said," Mark, let's go we have to get home." Mark replied," Where's the road!" John looked at him with surprise and said, "you're standing on it!"

Mark thought he might have night blindness. But two years later he went to see an eye doctor. She diagnosed him with Retinitus Pigmentosa. She said that it was caused by a deterioration of the retina, was usually very hereditary and that statistically one of the four siblings would get it. He was the one. Mark lost the gene pool. He had to stop driving when he was 36 and was totally blind by the age of 42. That's how Mark began the second half of his life...without the ability to see, he was now "handicapped." But that word has never really been applicable to his life.

Mark lives in a sighted world and has achieved great success. He is and has been one of the top sales persons working for Johnson Controls in the area of security systems...yes, security systems. One of his accounts for many years has been the Sears Tower ( now called the Willis Tower) in Chicago, Il. He has people from around the world come and consult with him about security systems because he is so knowledgeable in this area. He even told me once that his "handicap" was an advantage in his work. " When I walk into a room with a group of people, I'm not intimidated by body language or facial expressions. I'm able to very quickly share information and answer questions in a direct and concise manner because I can't use paper or do Power Points."

Mark has all of the traits previously identified. But perseverance and a sense of humor stand out. When he was 58 he collapsed and it was found that he was born with a bicuspid valve instead of a tricuspid which everyone else has, As a result over the years the 2 were working for 3 and deteriorated.  He had to have his aorta replaced and he also got a bonus pacemaker. He lost the gene pool twice. He recovered and went back to work. Now that's perseverance.

A sense of humor...Mark does have some interesting sorties. It is normal for people to feel uncomfortable if they're not used to being around someone with a handicap. One time Mark was waiting to meet someone in the Sears Tower lobby. The man came over, Mark extended his hand and the man said, I'm very happy to meet you. I've heard many good things about your work. In an attempt to make a connection he continued with, “ I just saw the movie about Ray Charles. (the blind singing/piano artist) Mark replied, "Well, I’m sorry but I didn't get to see it."

By the way, among many other things, Mark does all the cooking for Thanksgiving dinner and other events, he plans two fishing trips to Canada a year. He has a wife, a daughter and two beautiful grandchildren. Mark Eggerding is my hero for "living longer, living better" in the second half of life....he's also my baby brother.

Personal Application

The eye doctor said that one of the four children in my family would have gotten Retinitus pigmentosa. I often wonder how I would handle the challenges Mark faces on a daily basis being blind and still he is able to excel in his personal and professional life above the level of most sighted people. Sometimes I close my eyes and try to do some daily tasks and I realize how amazing he is.  I don't see myself doing nearly as well as Mark has. But I do have some chronic medical conditions whose symptoms slow me down at times.  When that happens I remind myself...stop complaining.....Mark doesn't.

Tribute

Mark, you've been an inspiration to everyone with whom you have come in contact with, personally and professionally. If I could, I would take this blindness from you and give it to me. But the Lord has truly used the second half of your life as an example for "living longer, living better." You will always be my "Hero." I love you. Your big sister, Barbara

(photo: Mark and Barbara at a tropical-themed gathering)


Note: The grandmother who Barbara mentions lived with the family also provided a positive role model—the basis for a section in each chapter of The Psychology of Living Longer & Living Better™ called "What would Elsie say?"

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