John R. Mead, 87, of Marshalltown, IA passed away Friday, March 22, 2013, at his residence while under the care of Iowa River Hospice. Mass of Christian Burial will be 11:00 a.m., Wednesday, March 27, 2013, at St. Mary Catholic Church, in Marshalltown. Visitation will be 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., with an 8:00 p.m. Vigil service Tuesday, March 26, 2013, at St. Mary Catholic Church. The Main Street Chapel of the Anderson Funeral Homes has been entrusted with the arrangements. Online condolences may be sent to
John was born November 18, 1925, in Marshalltown, IA, to John L. and Elizabeth DeMuth Mead. He attended St. Mary's Grade School and High School. On September 20, 1942, while working at the family business, Mead's Dairy, a refrigeration machine blew up, spilling ammonia into his eyes, burning his body, and causing blindness and the formation of scar tissue. On December 1, 1943, his mother, Elizabeth, and he traveled to New York City for the first of 25 eye operations (11 in New York), including several corneal transplants. The New York surgeries were performed at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center by Dr. Ramon Castraviejo. In New York City, he met M/M Eugene James, who became his "local parents" for his many trips to the city. He loved and enjoyed Manhattan, visiting Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds for professional football and baseball games, the top of the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and many other sites. After the surgeries, John would temporarily regained his site for a brief time, then the scar tissue would grow back. In 1954, Dr. Castraviejo sent him home, telling him to keep in touch, but that there was nothing else that he could do. John pondered his future. Besides working daily at Mead's Dairy, what should he do? Should he sit around and do nothing, start drinking, or take dance lessons so that he could get out and meet people? He decided on the final option, and, on December 8, met the teacher at Jo Ann's School of dance. In 1958, John and Jo Ann were married in Mason City. John adopted Jo Ann's daughter, Angela Faith. A son, Joseph John, was born to the couple in 1961, and they adopted Jane Maria in 1968 to complete their family. Up until this time, John had walked to work, and all over Marshalltown, with two successive Seeing Eye Dogs, Paula and Lisa, from Morristown, NJ. Joe was allergic to dogs, so after Lisa died, on the advice of Joe's doctor, Dr. Wells, John started walking with a white cane, obtained through the Commission for the Blind in Des Moines. In the mid-1970's, John began having further operations by Dr. Jay Krachmer at the University of Iowa Hospital, with corneas obtained through the Iowa Lions Eye Bank. In 1977, he regained enough vision to watch television at arm's length, and to be able to see his wife and children for the first time. At that time, he retired from working at Mead's Dairy. This vision lasted, off and on, for several years, during which time John had several more corneal transplants. In 1992, the year after his wife, Jo Ann, died, be became totally blind, losing his right eye to glaucoma, and his left eye to a detached retina. John married Mary Lou Mull October 13, 2001. They have resided at their homes in Marshalltown and Le Grand. John kept active, enjoying sports, especially the Hawkeyes. In 1939, he actually saw Niles Kinnick play in the first game of the season, when the Hawkeyes beat South Dakota 42-0. His ticket cost the princely sum of 10 cents. In 2011 John was honored as Marshalltown's "Hawkeye of the Year." He also enjoyed traveling, having been to 49 states, plus Mexico, Canada, Japan, and Ireland. John had gone on pilgrimages to Medjugorje, Rome, Lourdes, Fatima, and the Holy Land. He was a member of St. Mary's Church, the Knights of Columbus, and was especially active in several prayer groups.
John is survived by his wife, Mary Lou; his children, Angela (Douglas) Marvin of Pittsburgh, PA; Joe (Rae) Mead of Cheyenne, WY; and Jane (Ernie) Rodrigues of Fremont, CA; six grandchildren, Mariangela, Teriangela, Joshua, Justin, Jo Ann, and Jacquelyn, and six great grandchildren; sisters Catherine Lepine, of Keego Harbor, MI; Mary Blocker, of Chicago, IL; brothers Charles (Jacquelin) Mead of Merritt Island, FL; James (Roberta) Mead of Marshalltown; and also Mary Lou's three children: Cindy (Bill) Jones, James (Rox Anne) Mull, and Melissa (Scott) Stalzer. Preceding him in death were his parents, John L. and Elizabeth Mead, a sister, Rosemary, who died infancy, and his wife, Jo Ann.