Who The Heck Is Joan Brock?
Friday, 07 October 2011 12:04 | Written by S.E.D. Hunt
Who she is doesn’t seem to be as important as what she has been through. A story of perseverance against all odds that every man, woman or child should reflect on to get through the tough times. Did you lose your job, home or, not sure if the job you have today will be there tomorrow?
Are you dealing with bullies at school? Are you just having a bad hair day? Whatever you might be going through, no matter the degree of seriousness or insignificance, Joan’s story, should get you back on track. Joan Brock’s story will bring you back from the ledge.
I want you to imagine yourself in the following situation: You are teaching at a blind school. You have been showing blind children for over five years how to do things while being blind. You have not quite understood why these blind children are afraid of stairs. Then one day your child is holding pink socks but you see white socks. You have an eye condition that cannot be fixed and you will never be able to see again. All the colors you were just seeing yesterday are gone. You will have to judge people by their character and not their color. All so quickly your world goes from color to no color. This is a small portion of Joan Brock’s story.
More Than Meets the Eye
As a young bride. Joan Brock took a job at a boarding school for blind children in Vinton, IA, where her new husband worked. She loved working with the children and helping them to realize their full potential. and soon, she became a certified Braille instructor. “It was a exciting new life, new town, new job,” Brock remembers. She became the school liaison officer to the community and often spoke to groups on the school’s behalf. She and her husband had a baby girl. Life was good.
Then one, morning, Brock was looking for her daughter’s pink socks. As she rummaged through the drawer, Brock could see every color sock except pink. Finally, her daughter reached in and plucked out the right pair. “She handed them to me, and they looked white,” Brock says. Soon after, Brock, seeking relief from a sinus cold, visited her doctor. “He checked the pressure in my sinuses, numbed my eyes, and sent me immediately 60 miles away to the University of Iowa,” Brocks says. “In three weeks time, I was blind.”…
<read the full story here>
As seen in
Financial Events Magazine – Fall 2004
“An essential part of my sightless world is having a sense of order. After my husband died, I was fortunate to have had some organization in my personal life. We had a will and there was some life insurance. As a blind, disabled, single parent and widow… I needed help! Finding the right financial assistance was imperative!”
“I am fortunate that for more than 15 years, speaking to audiences of every imaginable description, I have been able to share encouragement all over the world. My message to them regarding their financial life, both personally and professionally, is essential, particularly during the tough times. If we have a sense of order, we can and WILL lead a positive, productive life that we are all striving for.” — Joan Brock
At the age of 32, Joan Brock suddenly lost her sight from a rare eye disease, in a three week period… WHILE working at a school for blind children. Five years later she tragically lost her young husband to cancer.
In her presentations, attendees will see parallels to their own adversities. Joan’s topics explore the vision of success, which must be shared by all the members of an effective and enduring organization. Her sparkling delivery and original style endear her to audiences who are charmed into a new way of looking at themselves and into breathing new life into the demands of a changing corporate climate.
In 2003, Joan’s amazing life story was portrayed in a Lifetime Television film, titled More than Meets the Eye: The Joan Brock Story, in which Ms. Carey Lowell played the lead. Joan is author of a book by the same title (1994).
The press is talking about Joan’s new movie,
More Than Meets The Eye: The Joan Brock Story, written for Lifetime TV!
ARIZONA DAILY STAR says
“Pathos, drama and a happily-ever-after ending…”
The script for More Than Meets The Eye: The Joan Brock Story has been submitted for the Humanitas, given by the Paulist Committee. We are very hopeful that Susan Nanus, the script writer, will be the winner!
Ariel Books & Nancy Carson have released a coffee table book of Inspirational Women of America called Believing In Ourselves. Joan will be one of the featured women, along with approximately 34 others. This book will be done in black and white photography with an essay on each woman. Some samples of the pictures have been included below. Just click on an image to see a larger version.
Photography by Jennifer Jones of Tucson
A light in the darkness
By Bonnie Henry
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Pathos, drama and a happily-ever-after ending. What more do you need in a movie? Oh, one more thing: It’s a true story.
Three times beginning Monday, Lifetime Television for Women will broadcast “More than Meets the Eye: The Joan Brock Story.”
“People ask me how it feels to have a movie made of my life,” says Joan Brock, as she sprawls across the living room floor of her comfortable Sabino Canyon home.
“I’m excited, scared. It’s surreal. There’s a whole range of emotions.”
And plenty of emotion will no doubt be packed into what promises to be a three-hanky movie.
In 1984, Joan, then 32, lost her vision after a lupus-like condition attacked her retinas.
It would get worse.
Five years later, her husband, Joe, would succumb to cancer, leaving her alone to raise their 8-year-old daughter, Joy.
But Brock had a couple of things going for her: One, she had taught – before and after the blindness set in – at a school for the blind in Iowa.
And two: She was already an experienced speaker, talking about the accomplishments of the blind.
After her husband’s death, Brock started writing her autobiography, “More than Meets the Eye,” which was published in 1994.
Two years earlier, she had met and married Tucsonan Jim Brock, who has written several books on butterflies.
Today, Joan Brock continues to be a sought-out speaker on the national circuit, addressing groups including vision professionals and migrant workers.
“My speeches are based on my life story but I can adapt it to different groups,” says Joan.
It was late in 2001 when a mutual friend of Joan’s passed her book along to independent producers Mike Bremer and Paul Goff.
A few months later, Hollywood came calling. “We were sitting on the front porch. Jim was watching butterflies and the phone rang,” says Joan.
“It was them, saying they were interested.” In May2002, the two producers, along with screenwriter Susan Nanus, met Joan in Tucson.
Not long after, they took in a speech she was making in San Diego.
“They saw what I do as a professional woman – not just as a blind person – to help and inspire people,” says Joan.
After San Diego, the writer got busy on the screenplay. “She sent me a treatment,” says Joan, laughing at how she’s picked up the lingo.
Though the basic outline of Joan’s life remains intact, some artistic license has been taken.
Because the movie was filmed entirely in Winnipeg, Canada, neither Tucson nor Bakersfield, Calif., Joan’s hometown, figure in the story line.
“They don’t look like Winnipeg,” says Joan.
In real life, Jim flew Joan to Tucson early in their courtship and together they released a butterfly.
“For the movie, they had butterfly wranglers in the area, raising butterflies,” says Jim, who was also on the set. “To do that one scene, they did tons of takes.”
Carey Lowell, who used to play prosecutor Jamie Ross on TV’s “Law and Order,” portrays Joan.
The two hit it off right from the start. “She asked my opinion on things,” says Joan, who spent several days on the set as a paid consultant.
She, Jim and Joy – who just graduated from Northern Arizona University – all have a cameo in the movie.
The story airs Monday at 9 and 11 p.m.; June 20 at 9 p.m.; and June 29 at 3 p.m.
“I just hope the film will touch hearts and give people hope,” says Joan.
Count on it.
The Dallas Morning News Metro Section
By Bill Lodge / The Dallas Morning News
Woman shares a message: Don’t fall prey to misery Life’s hard times help teach uplifting lessons
Joan Brock presents the world a picture painted in the cool hues of confidence and warm tones of easy friendship.
Someone meeting her for the first time might mistake her for actress Susan Sarandon. There’s the honey-blond hair. There’s the wide smile. And just look at those big brown eyes.
If she’s in a situation that she controls, you’d never guess that those eyes are blind. You wouldn’t know that she inexplicably lost her sight over a three-week period 17 years ago – or that her first husband was killed by cancer about five years later, leaving her alone with their young daughter.
The loss of sight seemed particularly ironic for Ms. Brock, who had worked for several years with blind children at the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School.
“I am working at a school for blind children,” she thought then. “How could this happen?”
Message and mission
In private conversation today, the 49-year-old Tucson resident often is quiet and keenly interested in what others say about themselves.
But she relives the worst of her experiences dozens of times each year as a national spokeswoman for the nonprofit Prevent Blindness America and as a for-profit speaker at corporate conventions and other large gatherings.
At the core of those speeches is a simple message: If you’ve suffered a terrible loss, you must force yourself to move on with your life or risk losing huge chunks of your spirit and many of your friends.
She does not spare her audiences the painful details of her own misfortunes.
“You can’t get up there and say, ‘I went blind, my husband died, and I remarried. Now, I’m happy. Thank you and goodbye,’ ” Ms. Brock said last week during a visit to Colleyville in Tarrant County.
She was interviewed at the office of Gail Davis & Associates, a group that arranged a series of meetings with possible PBA donors in the Dallas area. The Colleyville firm also schedules Ms. Brock’s speaking engagements, which have occurred as far away as Singapore and as nearby as Fort Worth.
People with problems need to hear from others who have learned to cope with adversity, Ms. Brock said.
She recalled the mother of a 14-year-old girl who listened to Ms. Brock speak at a high school. The mother called Ms. Brock years later to say that her husband had died of Lou Gehrig’s disease weeks before that high school event and that her daughter’s emotional trauma was interfering with her studies. The woman said Ms. Brock’s speech encouraged the girl to break out of her depression and continue her education.
With co-author Derek L. Gill, Ms. Brock wrote about her life in More Than Meets The Eye, a book published in 1994.
Doctors never discovered exactly what stole her vision in 1984. After years of tests, they concluded that her optic nerves were destroyed by a freakish malfunction of her immune system.
Her daughter, Joy Beringer, was a toddler.
“She became my eyes at 3,” Ms. Brock said. “And she lost her dad at 8.”
Sinus cancer robbed Joy’s father, Joe Beringer, of his right eye and other parts of his face before it slowly killed him.
After his death, his widow and daughter left Iowa and moved to Bakersfield, Calif., to be near Ms. Brock’s parents.
Ms. Brock had often heard her father, a minister, counsel grief-stricken church members. Those experiences helped her cope with her blindness.
Three years after being widowed, she married Jim Brock, who had been a classmate in high school.
Before their marriage, however, Ms. Brock had begun her career as an inspirational speaker.
It is a career that has taken her to Canada, Australia, Africa and Asia. And her work has introduced her to a number of political figures, including former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Pakistan’s former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.
But she’s most impressed by a skycap she met at Los Angeles International Airport.
The skycap introduced himself as “Virgil” and escorted her through the airport to ground transportation for a speaking engagement.
She said Virgil used his job as a skycap to care for his cancer-stricken wife and put two children through college.
“Everyone spoke to Virgil as we went through that airport,” Ms. Brock said. “It was, ‘Hi! Virgil. Good morning, Virgil. How’re you doing, Virgil?’
“Virgil was telling me that the most down-to-earth celebrity he had ever met was John Wayne, when someone said, ‘Hello, Virgil.’ And he said: ‘Hello, Mr. Lasorda.’ ”
That chance meeting was important to Ms. Brock, because former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda had sent an autographed team picture to her dying husband years earlier.
“I was so excited to have met Tommy Lasorda,” Ms. Brock said. “But I was even more pleased and proud to have met Virgil.”
People like Virgil see their way past problems, she said.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: To contact Prevent Blindness America, call 1-800-331-2020 (toll free) Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; log on to www.preventblindness.org; or write to Prevent Blindness America, 500 E. Remington Road, Schaumburg, IL 60137
Tail Winds – June/July 2001
Truly More Than Meets The Eye
By Mary Jo Spring
Tucson has a treasure. Her name is Joan Brock and she’s joined Prevent Blindness as the Spokesperson for Team 20/20. Team 20/20 is a marathon endurance program that raises money to support sight saving programs.
When you talk with Joan it’s obvious why she has chosen to tell her story and to raise awareness about the prevention of blindness across the country. In spite of setbacks that would challenge even Job, her positive energy and enthusiasm are infectious and she has volumes of inspirational messages to share.
Her story begins with life throwing her a strange twist of fate. While teaching blind children in Iowa, a rare disease took away her own eyesight. Five years later, still learning to cope with her blindness and insurmountable life changes, she lost her husband to a rare form of cancer. Joan was now facing being a single mother with an 8-year-old daughter.
While many people wouldn’t have the strength to go on, adversity would not get the best of Joan Brock. Her strong spirit and faith kicked into high gear. She moved back to her native California determined to maintain her independence, raise her daughter, and put her life back together. She did just that.
To chronicle her life and to keep things in perspective, she started a journal for her daughter, Joy, which would later become her book, More Than Meets The Eye. She then met her husband, Jim, who she jokingly says she met on a “blind date.” The pieces of her life were slowly being put back together.
Unexpectedly, another aspect of her life would come together. She began an exciting career that would take her all over the world. Recognizing her story and her courage, her community asked her to speak at churches and civics groups. This launched her career into motivational speaking. Joan Brock had begun making a difference in people’s lives.
What can we learn from Joan’s experiences? “Don’t take anything for granted. If you stay bitter you won’t get better. Lean on your friends and be a friend, and focus on being happy,” are Joan’s mantras that have kept her solid and strong. And Joan’s feet are squarely on the ground.
In the year 2002, Ariel Books and Nancy Carson will be releasing a book of inspirational women of America called Believing In Ourselves. Joan will be one of the featured women. To learn more about Joan Brock, visit her at www.JoanBrock.com.
To learn more about Team 20/20, visit preventblindness.org or call (800) 331-2020.
The Bakersfield Californian – October 11, 1998
Blindness pushes Kern native to find a new life
By Christine Bedell
The events leading up to Joan Brock’s appearance Saturday as the only native to address the Bakersfield Business Conference began with an unsuccessful search for pink socks.
One morning several years ago in Iowa, while dressing her 3-year-old daughter, Brock saw only white among the multi colored socks piled in the dresser drawer.
In 3 weeks time she was blind. Five years later her first husband Joe, died of sinus cancer. This left her not only handicapped, but a single parent thousands of miles from home.
Telling herself “this is enough,” she started a new life. she returned to Bakersfield, married the son of Brock’s department store owner John Brock and became a motivational speaker and author.
On Saturday, Brock told conference attendees they can learn from her struggles:
Teach yourself new ways to be productive, lean on friends and be friends to others and create your own happiness.
“Don’t take anything for granted,” the now-Tucson, Ariz. resident said. “Enjoy everything around you. It helps you so much.”
Ironically Brock was teaching blind children in Iowa when a rare disease stole her eyesight. Reorganization – from how she traveled to how she taught – was key to her rehabilitation, she said.
When her husband Joe died, the 1970 Bakersfield High School and University of South Dakota graduate came back to Bakersfield. The journal she began keeping became the book “More Than Meets The Eye.” Talks to local church and civics groups launched her international speaking career.
In 1992, after what she called “a great blind date,” she married high-school friend Jim Brock.
Being blind sometimes keeps her laughing, Brock said during one of the lighter moments of her speech. A waitress with experience helping her glaucoma-stricken mother recently offered aid to Brock.
“My mom has guacamole!” the waitress exclaimed.
Blindness also hones other senses, she said. During a trip to Pismo Beach, she reveled in hearing “every child’s laughter.”
In the years past, Brock listened to business conference speeches from the patio of her Gosford Row condo. This year’s experience as a speaker, she said in an interview, was overwhelming.
“I can’t believe it,” she told reporters, “I’m having lunch with Gorby!”
The Tucson Citizen – January 24, 1997
Vision For Life
By Cindy Somers
Tucsonan Joan Brock sat in the lobby of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport last week listening to the hubbub around her.
People were scurrying around cursing the weather, airport personnel and each other. They were snowed in and they didn’t like it.
“These people were so angry and I thought how foolish that was,” Brock recalled. “You can’t change the weather, you can’t do anything about a delayed flight. So why choose to be angry? You’re not always in control, you might as well accept that and choose to be happy.”
It is a choice Brock makes every day, in spite of the many things she knows she will never do again. Drive. Watch a movie. Choose a can of soup in the grocery store. Gaze into the brown eyes of her 16-year-old daughter.
“I would give anything to be able to see my daughter’s face again,” said Brock, who last saw her daughter when the child was just 3. “And if I let myself dwell on that the bitterness can become overwhelming. Then I am in trouble. Then I am lost.”
Brock, a local writer and speaker, lost her sight more than 13 years ago. In a still-unexplained medical phenomenon, it took less than three weeks for the then-32-year-old to become blind.
Brock was still struggling with her sightlessness when her husband was found to have a rare form of cancer. He died less than a year later, leaving Brock alone with their 8-year-old daughter.
“It is a sad story and I wouldn’t wish my troubles on anybody,” Brock said. “But I don’t want people to feel pity for me, and I don’t want to be this sad sob story.
“We all have choices to make in life and I choose not to feel sorry for myself. I choose to focus on being happy. People need to understand that being happy and being successful is always your choice.”
Brock will speak Sunday at a meeting of the University of Arizona Faculty Women’s Club, to help raise scholarship funds for three single women seeking education to re-enter the work force. The lecture begins at 2 p.m. at the UA Center for Creative Photography. Tickets are $10.
Brock chronicles her journey through blindness, her husband’s death, her remarriage and a move to Tucson in her book, “More Than Meets The Eye.” She has also developed a career traveling the world as a motivational speaker.
“I’ve been all over the United States and even into Malaysia,” Brock said. “It wasn’t something I had ever thought of doing, but people need to hear uplifting stories. We all need to know of the courage within us.”
From the outside looking in, Brock knows how horrible her story sounds. But she’s quick to point out that there are countless stories worse than hers, and others with far more difficulties.
“I’ve found that you can sit with just about anybody and they’ll have a story that will make you say, ‘Wow, how did you ever get through that?’ ” Brock said. “people that have gone through a divorce or the death of a child. Those are things I haven’t experienced, and I can’t imagine surviving. I hear the stories and wonder from where people draw the strength to continue.
“But we all have the strength and the courage somehow to continue and to survive. And I try to share that philosophy of inner strength by telling my story with humor and humility.”
One of the biggest hurdles when life turns unexpectedly cruel, Brock said, is the cry of “Why me?”
“I say, ‘Why not me?’ I’m no better than anybody else, and in this imperfect world, well, why not me? I don’t choose to look at it as what God did to me. I choose to look at it as what God got me through.
“Becoming blind is an extremely humbling experience. And every time I run into a cupboard door, I am humbled once again.”
Ironically, Brock became blind when she was working with her first husband at a school for the blind in Iowa. And though she knew what to expect and how to handle blindness, the sudden realization of her dependence was shocking.
Initially she resisted, trying to do all that she had always done. She gradually worked into a interdependent relationship with her husband, Joe, and even her daughter. But Joe’s illness and eventual death forced Brock back into independence.
“Joe’s death really forced me to accept my blindness and give up my last bits of denial,” she said. “It has been unbearably hard at times. There are days that I don’t know how I can continue. But those days are far fewer than they were, and I try to deal with them with humor and understanding and acceptance.
“My life is so much better now. And I say that with the greatest of respect for what my life was before. But I take nothing for granted now. All the experiences I have are so much more full because I have such a deep appreciation for everything I am handed during the day.”
Five years ago, Brock married Jim Brock, a butterfly expert, and moved to Tucson.
From here she has continued to speaks to groups around the country. Last year she had 17 out-of-state speaking engagements, and she looks forward to about 24 this year.
“I made my first speech to my first-grade teacher’s church group, and everything just snowballed from there,” Brock said with a laugh. “But people do seem to respond to my message. I want to be a blind person out in the world, and I have a responsibility to show people there is nothing wrong with that, that blind people aren’t any better or any worse than anyone else.
“I know I am lucky. I have a wonderful family and a successful career. When things are going OK, anybody can be happy. It’s when things aren’t going OK, when you are no longer in control, that you need to make the choice to be happy or be miserable. For me, I’ll choose happy every time.”