“It’s a gift”: A blind man’s journey to overcome limitations

For someone who has been blind from birth, describing what it’s like is hard. 

Charles “Dick” Bressler, long-time Lewisburg resident and music shop owner, has never let his visual impairment hold him back. 

“I don’t see things in the detail that you do. When I look at you, I can’t see anything about your face, or your hair color,” said Dick during a recent interview with On the PULSE. “Seeing has a whole lot to do with understanding, it doesn’t have a thing to do with your vision. I can see a great distance, but I can’t tell you what’s in there.” 

For more than 70 years, Dick studied hard, fought to get most jobs and worked to educate people that blindness doesn’t need to be a disability. As he has found, it can be a gift. 

Love of music, and Barb

Turning the dial of a 1938 Philco floor radio was the beginning of young Dick’s love of music. He would search through the stations to find his favorite tunes. 

At age 3, his father gave him a flutophone on which he soon learned to play a few songs. 

“I guess that was the start of it,” he said. 

Over 70 years later, instruments line the walls of his modest music studio in downtown Lewisburg. He and his wife, Barb, purchased the store in the 1990s and have built it into a staple of the small community. 

It was music that brought the pair together more than 42 years ago. Dick learned to tune pianos while in high school and Barb asked him to teach her how – but he said no. After all it’s hard work to learn to tune a piano and Dick didn’t think there was time to show her everything. 

But Barb was persistent and soon showed up on his doorstep with seven pianos ready to be tuned. 

It wasn’t long before the two were dating, and Dick quips that he never did get around to teaching her how to tune the piano. 

While Barb specializes in playing and teaching the piano, Dick says he plays primarily stringed instruments such as the guitar, violin, banjo, ukulele, trombone and the list goes on. 

“I can get some kind of music out of most anything,” Dick said, humbly adding that he “can’t play them all well, because I don’t practice them.” 

Finding work for a blind man

Even though Dick was blind, he never felt that it made music hard to learn. In fact, he adds, there is a bit of a stereotype that if you a blind you are automatically good at music. 

But while music is his passion, it wasn’t what he studied in college. Dick majored in social work and at first wanted to be a teacher, but at the time the Pennsylvania public school system wouldn’t let blind people be teachers.  

“I came out of Penn State in 1960… We were told that if you have an education you’ve got the world by the tail. Well, that turned out not to be the case,” Dick said. 

For nine months after college, Dick searched for work, always coming up short. 

Finally, he offered to work in a Clinton County judge’s office for free for nine months until he could convince them that his position was worth paying for. 

Commuting to work meant finding a rideshare with others who worked in the area, a process that meant he always needed to rely on others and work around their schedules. 

After years of working for the government and then working a bit for himself, when the opportunity arrived to purchase a local music shop, Dick and Barb jumped on it. 

Today, the pair sell instruments, give lessons, and Dick still tunes pianos. 

‘Letters to my Children’

In 2020, as business slowed and the public retreated to their homes with the onset of COVID-19, Dick’s children, Cindy Mann and Rick Dressler, asked their father if he would consider writing a book about his life. 

Before long, Rick started recording as his father spoke and then, with the help of the rest of the family, transcribed it into a book titled “Letters to My Children,” which was published on Feb. 5. 

While the book was primarily meant as a gift to his children, Dick also hopes it can help educate sighted people about the true struggles and blessings faced by people with blindness or visual impairment. 

He is adamant that being blind doesn’t mean he is incapable of doing things. In fact, one of the few things Dick doesn’t do, is drive. 

After over 80 years filled with getting an education, holding many steady jobs, teaching college courses, owning a business and now becoming an author, there is little that Dick found he could not do. 

And looking back on it now, he wouldn’t change anything, even being blind. 

“Had I not been blind I would have never gotten the education I did… Had I not been blind I wouldn’t have learned all the ways to get around limitations,” Dick said. “So in a way, for me, it’s been a gift.”

Author

  • Anne Reiner has been a journalist for over eight years. She lives in Lycoming County and founded On the PULSE to create a new and engaging way to bring local news to the region of Northcentral, Pennsylvania.

Anne Reiner

Anne Reiner has been a journalist for over eight years. She lives in Lycoming County and founded On the PULSE to create a new and engaging way to bring local news to the region of Northcentral, Pennsylvania.