Blind Woman Finds Grand Vision in Doing Family History Work

Contributed By Kara McMurray, Elder David Newton, and Sister Janae Bingham, Church News contributors

  • 21 August 2014

Terrilynne Pomeroy walks with her Seeing Eye dog, Chantelle, by the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City.  Photo by Elder David Newton.

Article Highlights

  • Sister Terrilynne Pomeroy has had no sight since age 7, and every Wednesday she makes the 33-mile adventure to the family history center in Riverton, Utah.
  • She is assisted by Ray Joos, who helps patrons at the Riverton Family History Center, in researching her German ancestors.
  • During their appointments, Brother Joos relays information to Sister Pomeroy so she can type the records into her Braille Sense computer.

The late-spring sun was just peeking over the Wasatch Mountains that early morning in late May, lighting up the few pink-edged clouds that drifted lazily across the horizon. There, on a tiny street in a decades-old trailer court in Centerville, Utah, Terrilynne Pomeroy stepped out of her weather-worn trailer with her closest companion, Chantelle, her Seeing Eye dog.

Sister Pomeroy had three hours of travel ahead of her, first by bus to Salt Lake City, where she then waited for the first of four light-rail trains that would take her to the family history center in Riverton, Utah.

With Chantelle by her side, Sister Pomeroy patiently waited for the bus. Completely blind, Sister Pomeroy has only vague memories of seeing as a toddler and remembers seeing shadows at age 7 but has had no sight since that time.

Sister Pomeroy makes the 33-mile adventure from her home to the family history center in Riverton, Utah, every Wednesday, something she has been doing for nearly a year now. There she is assisted by Ray Joos, who helps patrons at the Riverton Family History Center, in researching her German ancestors. She had been looking for someone for a long time who could read the German records when a friend referred her to the Riverton Family History Center, where she would receive Brother Joos’s help.

“It’s just allowed me to get [my] family [names] … back to about 1690,” said Sister Pomeroy. “It’s been terrific.”

For as long as she can remember, family history has always been a part of her life. “I’ve always been interested in it. I don’t remember a time I wasn’t. I have just always loved it.”

During their appointments, Brother Joos relays information to Sister Pomeroy so she can type the records into her Braille Sense computer.

Through the time they have spent together, Brother Joos has noted that Sister Pomeroy doesn’t seem to think she has any obstacles.

“She thinks that there’s not any challenge she can’t overcome,” he said.

He also said that Sister Pomeroy has taught him many lessons, including patience and gratitude.

“I have gratitude for the ability to be able to [help],” he said. “It’s been a real great blessing in my life and in her life.”

Each Saturday, Sister Pomeroy takes the names she has found with Brother Joos’s assistance to the Bountiful Utah Temple. She said she feels blessed to have the opportunity to go to the temple so often.

“The more time you spend [there], the more you get out of it,” she said.

Sister Pomeroy does not complain of the challenges she has faced in life. Elder Harold B. Lee gave her a priesthood blessing when she was age 7, before he was Church President, in which she was told she chose this obstacle in the premortal life.

“So why should I complain?” she said. Sister Pomeroy embodies a philosophy that no obstacle, whether it be time restraints, work, or a disability, should be a hindrance to doing the things that truly matter.

“I hope [her story] motivates people,” said Brother Joos. “I hope people see it and think ‘if she can do it, I can do it, too.’”

Terrilynne Pomeroy leaves her Centerville home with her Seeing Eye dog, Chantelle, on her way to a nearby bus stop. Photo by Sister Janae Bingham.

Terrilynne Pomeroy is assisted with her family history research by Ray Joos at the family history center in Riverton, Utah. Photo by Elder David Newton.

Terrilynne Pomeroy types into her Braille Sense computer. She is able to type her family history records in this machine with the assistance of Ray Joos. Photo by Sister Janae Bingham. Image 3 Credit: Photo by Sister Janae Bingham.

Chantelle, Terrilynne Pomeroy’s Seeing Eye dog, rests while Sister Pomeroy works on her family history. Photo by Sister Janae Bingham.

Ray Joos assists Terrilynne Pomeroy, who is blind, with her family history research. Brother Roos and Sister Pomeroy have a standing appointment at the Riverton Family History Center every Wednesday. Photo by Sister Janae Bingham.