Loyal Eugene Apple

Published 8:00 am Saturday, November 10, 2018

Loyal E. (Gene) Apple’s life was one of being thrust in unexpected directions and always meeting challenges with integrity and grace.

His life achievements extend far beyond a personal triumph over blindness. He sought major responsibilities, while maintaining a quiet, confident manner. His empathy, his ability to communicate with others and his confidence in people have made him an outstanding leader.

By his example, he has instilled within all people he has met a confidence in the abilities of blind individuals. He was recognized internationally as a leader in rehabilitation of the blind and severely visually impaired. 

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Gene Apple died at home in the embrace of his beloveds on Nov. 5, 2018. Gene is survived by his wife of 48 years, Marianne May Apple; his first wife, Grace Newman; and his children, Guy S. Apple, wife Deborah Soule, of Redwood City, California, grandson Kamron Bijeh-Apple, granddaughters Kaelyn and Karin Apple; Gracia A. Mahan, husband Michael G. Mahan, of Bend, Oregon, grandson Grant M. Mahan and his fiancé Natalie Tkalcevic and grandson Garrett C. Mahan; and Claire Apple and her husband Marq Singer of Pittsboro, North Carolina.

He was predeceased by his sister, Connie Hallmark.

Gene Apple was born in McCurtain, Oklahoma, in 1932, the son of Loyal C. Apple and Stella Snow Apple. His early childhood was spent in McCurtain, Oklahoma, Independence, Missouri, and Wasco, California. He graduated from William Jewell College and attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary before marrying and being drafted into the Army in 1955.

The trajectory of Gene’s life changed when he was blinded in an army training accident. After a prolonged hospitalization, followed by blind rehab training at the Hines Veterans Administration Hospital, Gene launched a leadership career of service, research and education.

Starting with the Blinded Veterans Association as a Field Service Rep in the Midwest, he soon went on to Washington, D.C. as national field service director, serving as liaison with the departments of labor, HEW, defense and the veterans administration, while supervising a national field program.

In 1960, Gene was selected as chief of the Blind Rehabilitation Section at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Hines, Illinois, where he had been a patient four years earlier. He directed a program that equipped newly blinded veterans with skills to lead productive independent lives.

During this time, he recruited and trained cadre for two new centers. He participated in the development and diffusion of academic preparation of Orientation & Mobility Specialists at the master’s level and established clinical training for O & M Specialists and Rehab Teachers. These programs were adopted as national standards and the O & M program became the international standard.

In 1967, Gene transferred to VA Hospital, Menlo Park, California, to organize and establish the new Western Blind Rehabilitation Center.  Research and programming under Gene’s leadership included projects for the evaluation and deployment of electronic mobility aids, reading machines, and CCTV magnifiers.

One of his most significant achievements was a milestone conference on Low Vision. During this period, he was an adjunct professor at Western Michigan University and also taught workshops in the U.S. and Japan.

He served on the VA Medical Review Team for Rehabilitative Engineering R&D Service and, along with his wife Marianne, began publishing Low Vision Abstracts, an international multidisciplinary research journal.

Gene was recruited in 1975 to reorganize and direct The American Foundation for the Blind in New York City.  He directed the national agency in its educational, rehabilitation and legislative programs, consulting, manufacturing, mail-order services and publishing functions

He independently commuted from New Jersey to New York City daily and sat at the desk once occupied by Helen Keller. He represented work for the blind in the U.S and international forums, served on the executive committee of the World Council for the Welfare of the Blind and led the first delegation of blindness agencies and organizations to the Soviet Union in the mid-1970s.

Gene took a break in 1980 to pursue a doctorate in marketing at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. His academic career at San Diego State University ended in 1991 when he was retired as a professor emeritus and returned to research work at the Western Blind Rehab Center in Palo Alto, California.

Gene is the author of numerous publications on blindness and rehabilitation, and on diffusion of innovation and technology transfer.

Retiring with wife Marianne to Polk County, North Carolina, in 1995, Gene became known as a congenial, supportive presence in the clay studios of Tryon Painters and Sculptors and Tryon Arts and Crafts. He pursued his love of clay and wood sculpting, taught sculpture classes and exhibited his work in many shows, often taking prizes.

This recognition probably meant as much to him as the many professional awards he was given during his amazing career. If he wasn’t sculpting for hours each day he was reading. He maintained his independence thanks to Polk County Transportation and would often entertain the school children passengers with stories and bring home new recipe ideas from his drivers. He relished time with children and grandchildren, especially hiking together in Palo Alto or enjoying the Apple love of sharing great meals.

When he had to retire from sculpting due to illness, he enjoyed fitness sessions with Njele and never stopped trying to be productive, caring and supportive to all.

His children state: “Our father lived a beautiful and giving life, helping and supporting many while asking nothing in return. He was an extraordinary role model and we will forever be grateful and feel blessed for that.  He is that voice in our thoughts, pushing forth with kindness and grit, our better side, and will therefore always live in our hearts and in our character.”

Daughter Claire remarks: “He will be remembered by me for the practical skills taught with patient humor and a link to the past (how to use a pocket knife and chisel, how to climb a tree, and how to drive a car being the memorable ones). I was always honored to be his guide; his sense of independence and confidence while traveling gave me a thrill.”

For memorial gifts made to honor his life, a donation may be made to the following:  The National Library Service for the Blind ,The Library of Congress,101 Independence Ave, SE, LM-613 ,Washington, DC 20540; The Lewy Body Dementia Association  912 Killian Hill Road SW, Suite 205 Lilburn, GA 30047 ; or the Polk County Transportation Service,  PO Box 308 , Columbus, NC 28722.

An online guest register may be signed at mcfarlandfuneralchapel.com.

McFarland Funeral Chapel, Tryon