Jim Leonard combats the debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis with the assist of an advanced mobility vehicle. No glorified “seat with wheels” Leonard’s device can zip through a mall at 6 miles per hour, recline him horizontally to relieve pressure or elevate him so he can reach the microwave in his kitchen or stir a pot. While waiting to be seated for breakfast at Mainely Meat in Bar Harbor, Maine, Leonard stopped short of demonstrating the 360 degree wheelies he can do with his sophisticated chair. Watch video here.
I'VE SEEN YOU GENTLEMEN WALKING IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD FOR MANY YEARS. WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT'S YOUR ROUTINE?
JM: My name is John Manola.
WT: And I am William Talero. I met John forty years ago when I was teaching at the School for the Blind in Jersey City. He was a chaplain of a group of blind people who used to be foster grandparents to some of the blind youngsters. And then I met him again nine years ago when I went to a concert in Philadelphia. And we joined forces and we moved here to Chestnut Hill. And we try to walk as much as we can and live a healthy life.
ARE YOU VISUALLY IMPAIRED?
WT: I am totally blind. I lost my vision. I used to have partial vision but eight years ago I became totally blind because glaucoma took the last bit of sight that I had. So living with John has been very beneficial to me because he's and honest person and he happens to like to walk and I always enjoy walking. Before I was totally blind I used to walk all over- the Wissahickon and I did a little bit of the Appalachian Trail...You don't believe it but this gentleman next month is going to be ninety-three.
JM: I'm 92 now; I'll be 93 in December, yes.
I NOTICE YOU WEAR SHADES, ALSO.
JM: Yes, my eyes are sensitive to light, there's nothing wrong with my eyesight.
WT: He has very good sight
YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT USING YOUR OTHER SENSES.
WT: Well you know there is a great opportunity to use your other senses when you walk down on the avenue because the bakeries, the dry cleaning, the flower shop, and of course the sounds are certainly very much in evidence. I remember many years ago when they used to have the trolley. And it was always a kind of nice, quaint sound that you always related to Philadelphia. I kind of miss that 23 trolley, you know?
WHAT ABOUT THE COFFEE AND THE GARLIC?Yes, the coffee and all the garlic and all the wonderful smells of the various restaurants, not as many as there used to be.
WHAT RESTUARANTS DO YOU RECOGNIZE BY SMELL?
I definitely know when I’m getting close to the Japanese restaurant and the Chinese-French place, Cin-Cin, and on this side, of course, the Hotel. We like to go to Rollers. It’s very friendly and we always have a good meal there.
John Manola (left) and William Talero, along Germantown Avenue, Chestnut Hill.