Kathleen Homer, a longtime registered nurse who became a leading advocate for parents of deaf students -— and their children -— died Saturday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, South Detroit Avenue. She was 84.
She learned in November, 2016, that she had colon cancer, and it had metastasized to her liver, daughter Diane Cline said. The colon cancer was removed. She realized that medical treatment for the liver cancer would not have been curative, and the side effects difficult. She decided against any such treatment.
She remained in her West Toledo home and active, her daughter said — going to church; attending the June wedding of a granddaughter; having a birthday dinner at Mancy’s Steakhouse, where she had her first taste of lobster.
She was born Oct. 4, 1933, to Frances and John Ryan and grew up on a farm in Defiance County. She was valedictorian of her 1951 graduating class at Ayersville High School. She was a secretary for a year afterward and then went to the Mercy Hospital School of Nursing in Toledo, where she was president of her 1955 graduating class.
She worked for several years at Mercy. Much of her career was at what is now Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center, where she cared for patients with fractures, trauma, and other orthopedic problems. Her focus was caregiving and helping people get better, said daughter Diane, also a nurse.
In the mid-1970s, Mrs. Homer and a good friend and colleague were sent to a training program in Columbus. They returned with a pilot program intended to make sure hospitals used their resources wisely. Mrs. Homer worked in what became the utilization review department until her 1987 retirement.
Two of her four children, son Robin and daughter Lynn, are deaf.
“This was new,” Ms. Cline said. “We had no deafness in the family.”
Professionals for years would not say for certain that son Robin was hearing impaired.
“In her journey to get a diagnosis for him, and ‘How am I going to raise these children?’ she needed to know how to do the best for her children,” Ms. Cline said.
Mrs. Homer became active in a group for parents of deaf students in the Toledo Public Schools and eventually president. The district had a program developed a program for hearing-impaired students.
“She wanted to provide resources to the teachers and school board to accelerate the program, so students would get a lot more than they were getting in the 1950s,” her son Robin said.
Mrs. Homer believed students needed a foundation in reading, writing, and math and receive speech therapy. She was chosen to attend the 1966 biennial convention of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
Her son, who has a degree in civil engineering, attended the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, a college of Rochester Institute of Technology, as did daughter Lynn, who also attended Gallaudet University.
“If it wasn’t for my mom, I wouldn’t be where I am now,” son Robin said. “She told me you can do anything you want to do if you put your mind to it. She basically cared enough about me to do anything in her power to make things easier for me.”
She and Dale Homer married Feb. 11, 1956. In retirement, she and her husband, who was a Toledo police officer, spent winters at Plant City, Fla., summers at Lake Hemlock in Michigan, and traveled the world. He died June 22, 2013.
Surviving are her sons Robin and Thomas Homer; daughters Diane Cline and Lynn Millsaps; brother, Robert Ryan; 11 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 2-8 p.m. Wednesday in Newcomer Funeral Home Southwest Chapel, where services will be at 10 a.m. Thursday.
The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Northwest Ohio or Calvary Assembly of God, Maumee, where she was a member.
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