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Editorial: the Monday mix

Editorial: On friendly radio voices; Amherst name change; sensible deal in Northampton

  • Volunteer Eileen Richards reads selections from area newspapers on air Aug. 4 at Springfield-based Valley Eye Radio, a station that broadcasts local news and information to reading-impaired listeners throughout the Pioneer Valley. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO


Monday, August 28, 2017

The voices on the radio are not broadcast widely, but they are cherished by their listening audience — people who cannot see or for other reasons cannot read themselves.

They are the voices of some 50 volunteers who read from local newspapers on Valley Eye Radio, which broadcasts from the building housing public television station WGBY in Springfield. The signal is not received by regular radios, so Valley Eye’s listeners have a special radio delivered to them. The broadcasts also are available online and by calling a telephone number.

The voices reading the news belong to people like Eileen Richard, 74, of Springfield, who fills an hour starting at 11 a.m. every Friday by reading news from communities in Hampshire and Franklin counties. A woman who loves reading for herself, she delivers the news in a gentle tone.

“I love to read to people so it is an enjoyment for me. I try to read to them as if I am sitting in their room with them,” Richard says. “I love to read to someone who is listening who has a need for it.”

Among her listeners is Larry Humphries, 91, of Springfield, a former ballet dancer at Jacob’s Pillow in Becket who also worked in the office of communications there. He has macular degeneration and sees only silhouettes.

Every morning, Humphries sits down with a bowl of cereal, turns on his special radio and listens to the station which is his primary source of news. “Valley Eye Radio is a blessing for the blind,” he says. “I just think it is so wonderful.”

Humphries especially likes to hear Richards read the animal adoption column in the Valley Advocate. He appreciates the way she changes her voice, talking as if she is the animal in the listing. “It is the cutest thing,” he says.

Valley Eye radio is part of network of six stations for the blind in Massachusetts that are part of the Talking Information Center in Marshfield. The nonprofit receives state funds and private donations. It broadcasts around the clock, using live and recorded material.

The online broadcasts are available at ticnetwork.org. Anyone who needs a special radio or wants to volunteer may call the station at 413-747-7337. Making that connection costs nothing; the service rendered is priceless.

* * *

Once again, the suitability of the town of Amherst’s name is being questioned, this time in an email sent to town and state officials by Belchertown resident William Bowen.

“It’s something that’s been on my mind for a while, and it’s something that should be addressed,” Bowen wrote in an email sent to the Amherst Select Board, town manager, and legislators representing the town. “The American Indians, the Native Americans, are totally offended by the name of Amherst, they really are.”

The town, like others in New Hampshire and New York, was named for Lord Jeffery Amherst, who commanded British troops in North America during the French and Indian War. Historians say he advocated using blankets infected with the smallpox virus against Indians.

After an outcry on the Amherst College campus, the school dropped its unofficial mascot, the Lord Jeffs, in 2016. However, the trustees said then that “Amherst College will always be the name of the school.”

The same should be true of the town. As Select Board member Connie Kruger points out, “Others have tried to do this in Amherst. It’s been a conversation over many years.”

Town officials and state legislators have many more important issues to address than reopening that conversation.

* * *

Kudos to Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz for brokering a deal with longtime business owner Harold Willard that resolved a sticky situation.

The city needed an additional 20-foot easement from the 94-year-old owner of Harold’s Garage so a drainage line at the corner of Pleasant and Holyoke streets could be moved to make way for a $20 million affordable housing project.

As the city prepared for the relocation, it discovered an illegal connection that carried raw sewage from Willard’s property through the drain line and into the Connecticut River.

Rather than taking legal action, the two sides agreed to an amicable solution: in exchange for receiving the property easement, the city will fix the illegal sewer connection at no cost to Willard.

That kind of sensible governing gives the city and property owner what they need without the needless expenditure of time and money.