VIS Ken Howell, Lyle Dobey 2019.5.JPG

Ken Howell and Lyle Dobey are the newest VIS board members.

“It is said that it takes a community to raise a child,” said VIS President Linda Simmons, “but it also takes dedicated board members to raise a nonprofit 100% volunteer organization.”

The Visually Impaired Support Group of Cumberland County has two new directors, Kenneth T. Howell and Lyle Dobey.

Howell, who has age-related macular degeneration, has been a valuable VIS member since joining in 2013. Always lending a hand, he helps the hospitality committee, making coffee and bringing doughnuts to each monthly meeting. 

As moderator of the VIS 2018 InSight on Vision, he demonstrated to everyone how a legally blind person uses a desktop electronic video magnifier. VIS encourages its members to take advantage of the trips they offer, because vision impaired people tend to isolate themselves. 

Over the past year, Howell has enjoyed several educational outings, such as Tennessee Council of the Blind Convention, Tennessee Library for the Blind and Visually Impaired visit, Tour of Assistive Technology Services at Signal Centers, and the recent journey to the Global Accessibility Awareness Day at University of Tennessee’s Chattanooga campus. 

“One day while at the Cumberland County Playhouse, I picked up an informational pamphlet describing VIS … and the rest is history,” Howell said. “It’s good to spend time with people who share the same difficulties.” 

The 88-year-old Howell was born and educated in White County at Coles Chapel Community Grade School and White County High School in Sparta. After being drafted during the Korean War era, he joined the U.S. Air Force and spent most of his service time at upper Hey Ford Air Force Base near Oxford England. 

Settling in Detroit, MI, with his wife and family, he was employed by General Motors-Detroit Diesel for 33 years before retiring and moving back to Tennessee.

He lives in Englewood and is a member of the Retired United Auto Workers, where he formerly served as vice president and counselor. 

Howell said he resigned when his vision became poor. (If he only had the opportunity to borrow some of the devices the VIS Group has in their Equipment On-Loan program.)

Dobey is a self-motivated man who is diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration. Although a recent member, he jumped at the opportunity of helping wherever needed. He helped the VIS Group by encouraging many new visitors to attend meetings, submitted news briefs, printed promotional materials for distribution, and helped organize the VIS On-Loan equipment inventory.

Dobey was born in Illinois, where he was primarily raised, although he also lived in the Valentine, NE, and Seattle, WA. He graduated in Mount Sterling, IL, in 1955 and immediately joined the U.S. Navy, enjoying life as a Seabee working as a heavy equipment mechanic. During this adventure, he had the opportunity of exploring Kwajalein, Marshall Islands; Hawaii; Kodiak, AK; Port Hueneme, CA; and Coronado, CA. 

After fulfilling his Navy commitment, Dobey worked in several stimulating professions, including as a firefighter utilizing diesel locomotives, police patrolman, San Diego County deputy marshal, court bailiff attending to civil processes of serving criminal warrants, jailer, academy instructor, range master and extradition agent.

After retiring in 1992, he bought and lived aboard a sailboat at Marina Cortez in San Diego Bay. Then Dobey decided to join the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, became a crewman, publications officer, boating safety instructor, vice commander, flotilla commander and division captain. 

Upon trading in the sailboat, he opted for a motor home.

“We toured this great country until 2002, and settled in beautiful Crossville, TN,” he said.

Dobey is an active member of the Cumberland Plateau Antique Tractor and Engine Association, on which he has served as president, secretary and chairman of the scholarship and recruitment committees. 

Other membership associations are American Legion, Seabee MCBI1, USCG Auxiliary of past captains, Retired Deputy Marshal’s, San Diego County Seat Belt Survivor Club, and an NRA life membership.

Cumberland County has a higher percentage of people diagnosed with macular degeneration because large numbers of retirees who have relocated to the area. 

The VIS Group provides members with the latest newsletter, The Magnifier, published by the Macular Degeneration Foundation. 

To find out the “10 Most Common Misconceptions Regarding Macular Degeneration,” pick up a copy at the next VIS Group meeting at 10 a.m. Sept. 12 at the Sonshine Soup Kitchen, 69 Neecham St., downtown Crossville. Visit: for more about macular degeneration.

The VIS Group are the visually impaired, who serve the visually impaired. Officers and board members include President Linda Simmons, Vice President Joyce Lignar, Secretary Diane Donald, Treasurer Marvin “Pete” Cahill and board members Howell, Dobey, Margie DeMars, Leon Embry, Leonard Hollender, Danny Keough and Pat Olsen. Of the six men and five women board members, five are blind or legally blind, five have low vision, and one is sighted. 

“Welcome Ken & Lyle,” Simmons said. “Thank you to all our board members for raising the VIS Group to a higher standard.” VIS benefits and enjoys being a participating partner of the United Fund of Cumberland County.

Full membership for the VIS Group is $25 per year, which automatically assures membership in the American and Tennessee Councils of the Blind. Dues will be valid through Dec. 31, 2020, for those who join now.

Call Simmons at 931-787-1772 or visit for information.

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