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Annie Glenn: Behind the scenes, dedicated life to disabled

Published: December 17, 2016 12:00 PM
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While John Glenn got most of the attention with his career as a war hero, astronaut and Senator, his wife of over 70 years was with him every step of the journey.

Annie Castor Glenn has focused her life on the people who often go unseen — the disabled.

She, herself, has had to overcome her own disability. Annie barely spoke, not because she didn’t have anything to say, but because when she did, people often assumed she was either deaf of mentally deficient.

For most of her life, Annie was afflicted with an 85 percent stutter, meaning she would become hung up on 85 percent of the words she tried to speak.

She spent the early years of their marriage avoiding the spotlight. While her husband, John, seemed to enjoy the television cameras, he clearly cared more for her privacy.

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One day in 1973, the couple was watching the television and a doctor was discussing a new method of treatment for stutterers, an intensive three-week program in Roanoke. Annie enrolled. They made her re-learn each letter of the alphabet. They forced her to go to a shopping center and shop. To ask questions, for the first time. They weren’t allowed to call friends or family for that three weeks. When it was over, Annie picked up the telephone. And the stuttering was gone.

She was 53 years old, and she had found her calling. Annie began giving speeches on behalf of her husband when he ran for Senate. After each speech, she would rush to greet those everyone else ignored — the disabled.

In 1983, she received the first national award of the American Speech and Hearing Association for “providing an inspiring model for people with communicative disorders.”

Over the years, she has been members of many organizations including: Delta Gamma Theta sorority at Muskingum College, The Ohio Board of Child Abuse, The Board of Columbus (Ohio) Speech and Hearing Center, The Society of Sponsors, The Board of Trustees of Muskingum College, The Advisory Panel of the Central Ohio Speech and Hearing Association, The Advisory Board for the National Center for Survivors of Childhood Abuse, The Board for the National First Ladies' Library, and The National Deafness and other Communication Disorders Advisory Council of the National Institutes of Health.
As the late John Glenn once wrote of her, “It takes guts to operate with a disability. I don’t know if I would have had the courage to do all the things that Annie did so well.”


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