Jeri Sue Lynn-Cooper was born in 1958 in Tulsa, OK, to the parents of John and Norma Lynn. At birth, doctors informed her parents she was mongoloid which at that time was a derogatory term for a mentally retarded person, would never reach the mentality level of a five year old, and would be dead before her twenties. They also advised them to put her in Hissom, an institution for the mentally retarded in Sand Springs. Her parents said no and took her home. They believed in God and knew everything would be all right.
Jeri attended the Oklahoma School for the Blind (OSB) in 1969 in Muskogee, OK. There, hearing aids were placed on her and it totally opened up a whole new world. It was quickly determined that Jeri wasn’t mentally retarded but rather legally blind and hard of hearing. (During the 50’s hospitals did not test at birth for Deafness or Blindness). She excelled at OSB and graduated in 1976.
After graduation at the age of 17, she moved to Oklahoma City to begin her own life. It quickly became obvious to her that others didn’t really understand folks who are visually and hearing impaired because she had just come from a school where everyone was accepted as they were, and disabilities weren’t an issue. Many thought she was drunk and that was acceptable. When she would tell them she wasn’t drunk but legally blind and hearing impaired, they would back away. Feeling isolated and wanting to belong, Jeri started a lifestyle of drugs and alcohol that would last about 20 years. Jeri spent those years lost and unsure of what she wanted to do in life. This created many wrong choices and abusive relationships. In 1994 in her late 30’s, she had hit rock bottom. She told her sister she was sick and tired of being DeafBlind and making so many mistakes. She had knee surgery and told her sister she hoped she wouldn’t wake up. Little did she know, God wasn’t finished with her yet.
After surgery and with nowhere to go but up, she finally came home, back to her roots. Jeri stopped a lifestyle of drugs and alcohol and often calls herself the prodigal daughter. She enrolled at Northeastern State University and obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Development Psychology and later her masters in Rehabilitation Teaching for the Blind at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock. She went on to be certified in DeafBlind Rehabilitation through Northern Illinois University.
Jeri was hired by Visual Services under the Department of Rehabilitation Services in 2009, and six months later she became the DeafBlind Specialist of Oklahoma. Jeri loves helping others and truly understands what being DeafBlind is all about. Today, she is totally blind and profoundly deaf, but with two hearing aids she is able to understand one on one communication. She often tells others that her Mom was her Ann Sullivan who many know was the great teacher of Helen Keller. Jeri gives thanks to her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then a thumbs up to her Mom because without them, she wouldn’t be where she is today.
Today, I want to help others the same way I have been helped. With patience and encouragement from my Mom, and God’s Word, my aspiration is to inspire and promote that spirit of empowerment so others can transform their stumbling blocks into stepping stones.
Board of Directors
Cassandra Oakes, Vice President
Cassandra Oakes was born in 1959 with a profound hearing loss. At age 19, she was diagnosed with an eye disease known as Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) and caused blindness to begin during the second decade of her life. She has accomplished numerous goals, both personal and professional, and is the founder and president of a non-profit organization called Sight-Hearing Encouragement Program. (SHEP). Her belief is: “You’re born with a ‘can’ gift in you to overcome the ‘can’t’ that came with you.”
Daniel Meek, Treasurer
Daniel Meek is a compliance officer for a small investment firm in Bethany, Oklahoma. He has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and is currently pursuing CPA certification. Daniel was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at age fifteen, which is an eye condition that leads to blindness. In his late thirties, his diagnosis was modified to Usher Syndrome Type III, which leads to deafness as well. He is an active member in the Heartland Council for the blind and volunteers for the Sight-Hearing Encouragement Program. Daniel currently resides in Mustang, Oklahoma with his wife and two daughters
Colleen Shorrock, Secretary
Colleen and her husband, Steve, moved to Oklahoma in October of 2015; after living in Texas near their five children and five grand children. Recently retired, she decided to finish college and entered the interpreting program at Tulsa Community College. Colleen is currently enrolled in the University of Arkansas cohort program majoring in Educational Interpreting. Her volunteer efforts and community involvement as an interpreter and support service provider include the Broken Arrow Deaf Church and the Green County DeafBlind Club.
Allison Fallin, Board Member at Large
Allison was raised in a Philadelphia suburb, went to public school in sixth grade, after being a day student at the Overbrook School for the Blind.
She went to college and majored in English so words have always been important to her.
She first got involved with deafblind issues when she had the joy of marrying her late husband Joe Fallin, whose board position she is filling.
The scope of deafblindness really impacted her when they had a Tulsa Council of the Blind meeting and a representative of Total Source for Hearing Access (TSHA) came and played “Unfair Hearing Test”, a group of ten words. She could barely understand any of them, and then she found out that that’s what people with a severe hearing loss hear all the time. It gave her a new understanding of the difficulties DeafBlind people face, and living with someone who was DeafBlind only deepened that understanding and passion to see Jeri’s house become a reality.
Roger Smith, Board Member at Large
A former Tulsa resident, Roger began a metal fabricating career in 1970 after leaving the military. Over the years, he has had the opportunity to build a variety of things from an acrobatic airplane frame, to beautiful spiral staircases and custom street rods. Today Roger currently lives in Arkansas with his beautiful wife Beverly, “who is glad to have her garage back”. He is and has been involved in the Deaf community for over 20 years, and sits on the board of TSHA, and recently became a board member of Jeri’s House, another non-profit company located in Tulsa.