by Dennis Dalman
After 36 years of helping people with disabilities, Judy Moening will be honored at a retirement party open to the public from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 5 at Great River Bowl.
There will be a cash bar and hors d’oeuvres at the party.
Moening is executive director of United Cerebral Palsy of Central Minnesota. Her last official day on the job will be Aug. 7.
Looking back over her long career with UCPCM, Moening’s mind becomes crowded with many happy success stories. But just about her all-time favorite story is about Eric, the 11-year-old boy in the area who suffered such severe cerebral palsy he could not communicate at all through talking. About 20 years ago, along came a communications device called a “Dynavox.” At the time, it was expensive, $7,000, and insurance wouldn’t cover it because it was so new and untried. However, UCP helped buy one for Eric.
The device was equipped with all kinds of keys, each with a stylized picture on it. When a key was punched, the machine would “talk.” One day Eric’s teacher invited Moening to his school so she could see in person what a remarkable change the Dynavox had made for Eric. At the school, Moening watched Eric proudly demonstrate his new talking machine. At one point, she asked him what the picture of the black bug on one of the keys meant. Instantly Eric was smiling mischievously, so excited and happy his muscles began to seize up in spasms. Then he pressed the key, and the voice said, “Don’t bug me!” It was, said the teacher, the first time Eric was able to “tell” his brothers and sisters to “bug off!” He had to use that key quite often.
Eric, Moening said, is doing just fine now, after all those years, and has gone on to infinitely more sophisticated communications devices.
Cerebral palsy ranges from mild to severe, Moening noted, which means UCPCM dealt with a very wide range of needs and options for cerebral-palsy sufferers and their families.
“Having cerebral palsy,” she said, “affects a person’s ability to control their muscles, and many cannot talk or have great difficulty talking because it’s hard for them to form their mouth muscles so they can produce speech. Cerebral palsy is like being trapped in a body you cannot control.”
Born in Melrose, Moening now lives in St. Cloud where she worked at Bankers Systems for many years. Then she took some time off. One day, a neighbor, who was on the board of UCPCM, convinced Moening to apply for a part-time job at the agency. She did and got the job.
“I became very passionate about helping people with disabilities,” she said. “I liked working with employees of the non-profits who were so greatly passionate about their work.”
The agency comes in contact with about 600 people per year in the counties of Stearns, Benton and Sherburne. A lot of the help consists of providing appropriate assistive technologies, such as recycled computers and the voice machines that allow people to communicate, as was the case with Eric so many years ago.
Moening had high praise for Great River Bowl of Sartell for being so supportive of UCPCM. Thanks to its “Super Strikers” bowling program, many people with disabilities have had so much fun bowling because of assistive gear such as special ramps provided by Great River Bowl. That is why Moening and others chose Great River Bowl for her retirement party.
Moening and her husband, Lee, have three grown children: Heather, Heidi and Ryan. They have one grandchild, Harper.
When asked what she plans to do in retirement, Moening said, “I think I’ll have some fun. She plans to spend relaxing times at the family cabin up north and to visit her children, all of whom live out of state.
Judy Moening will be honored at a retirement party Aug. 5 at Great River Bowl. The public is encouraged to attend the party.
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.