BOWLING GREEN - Judy Cernkovich, 59, a recently retired, nationally acclaimed teacher of blind and visually impaired children with the Wood County Educational Service Center, died of cancer Sunday in the Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township.
As a teacher at the educational service center, Mrs. Cernkovich taught children 5 years of age and under in 22 counties of northwest and west central Ohio for about the last 25 years, visiting them in their homes and area schools.
She retired in August when her health declined.
She also trained personnel working with blind and visually impaired children for the Ohio Department of Health for the last 20 years.
Mrs. Cernkovich gave presentations, seminars, and talks on the subject at area universities, including Bowling Green State University, the University of Toledo, and Ohio State University.
Before working for the educational service center, she taught developmentally challenged children at public schools in Ohio and Illinois in the 1970s through the early 1980s.
Over the years, Mrs. Cernkovich volunteered in many leadership capacities for the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired of Ohio, of which she was a past president, and for the American Printing House for the Blind Inc.
She received a host of awards for professional excellence at the state and national levels.
Earlier this month, the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired of Ohio renamed its annual Educator of the Year Award as the Judy Cernkovich Excellence in Education Award.
"When she saw a misfortune, she felt a need to help. She did not want to see these children and their parents bound by the limitations that society imposed," her husband, Stephen Cernkovich, said.
Many people with whom Mrs. Cernkovich had come in contact considered her their best friend, Mr. Cernkovich said.
"She put everybody ahead of herself and would do everything to help - with her energy, her dedication, her love of children, and her selflessness," he said.
A native of DuQuoin, Ill., Mrs. Cernkovich, whose maiden name was Rice, graduated in 1965 from DuQuoin High School. She received a bachelor's degree in elementary education in 1969 and a master's degree in special education in 1970, both from Southern Illinois University, and certification as a teacher of children with visual impairments from the University of Toledo in the middle to late 1980s.
In her free time, she enjoyed flower gardening, reading, traveling, and working out.
Mrs. Cernkovich was a former member of St. Thomas More University Parish, Bowling Green.
Her professional memberships included the Council for Exceptional Children; Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Surviving are her husband of 37 years, Stephen Cernkovich; daughters, Erin Cernkovich and Abby Cernkovich; father, Harold Rice; sisters, Leanna DePue and Jane Bailey, and brothers, Rudy Rice and Charles Rice.
There will be no visitation. A memorial service will be at 6 p.m. today in BGSU's Prout Chapel. Arrangements are by the Dunn Funeral Home, Bowling Green.
The family suggests tributes to the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired of Ohio or the American Printing House for the Blind.