An Eye on Gratitude

Helen Keller had a special interaction with the author’s future father-in-law during a 1946 visit to Seattle
There was always regret in my husband’s family that a treasure had been lost sometime in the 1940s. Recently, while going through some old boxes stored in my garage, I found it!

My father-in-law started an optical dispensing company in Seattle in 1926. He eventually established a store in the Medical Dental Building on Olive Way. They filled eyeglass prescriptions for the patients of the ophthalmologists in the building.

In 1946, Helen Keller came to Seattle on a tour to visit the war wounded in the local hospitals. Her companion, Polly Thompson, was with her and they stayed at the Olympic Hotel. Unfortunately, somehow Miss Keller lost one of her glass eyes and reached out to my father-in-law for a replacement.

At that time, artificial eyes were hand painted and made of glass. Since they were not custom made for each patient as they are now, opticians carried
a variety of eyes in all sizes and colors. They were kept on slide-out trays in a large wooden cabinet. (I remember the first time I looked into that cabinet and saw all those eyes staring back at me!)

Charlie D’Amico and Dr. Russell Horsefield, an ophthalmologist from the Medical Building, went to the Olympic Hotel and met Miss Keller and Miss Thompson in their room. With them, they carried an assortment of eyes and the expertise to be sure that the best match was fitted correctly. 

The treasure I found was the full page, heartfelt thank you letter to my father-in-law from Helen Keller. It was typed and signed in pencil with her recognizable printed signature. 

Now that this treasure has been found, I will frame it with an acid free matting and pass it down through my family. ❖