WISE — “Just call me Crow” deals with a number of medical issues but no disability is more apparent than a severe speech impediment.
Crow, 35, is a stutterer. On the bright side, that puts him in pretty good company. According to Wikipedia, some of the more successful stutterers in history were British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Greek orator Demosthenes and King George VI, as well as more contemporary folks like actor James Earl Jones and country singer Mel Tillis.
As for Crow, perhaps his eloquence is channeled from broken speech motor skills to a wide-open friendly demeanor. Crow is a good guy. He’s just one of those people the very moment you meet who rates a solid “cool” on the personality scale.
Crow says he has “lived all over” but primarily in Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky at different times. He graduated high school in Frederick, Md., and holds a pair of technical certifications from two community colleges, one in Tennessee and the other in Maryland.
In spite of his verbal communication difficulties, he wound up in Johnson City in recent years with a decent job testing circuit boards used in medical equipment like sleep apnea monitors.
Then he got laid off and things started circling the drain.
“I actually held down a very good job at that time. I had my own car. Paid my own way. Money was no problem when I was working,” he said. “When I just couldn’t work I knew I needed to do something, and that’s when I went to Social Services for the first time. I wasn’t looking to do nothing. I just wanted to eat.”
The job loss coincided with his mother’s late-stage cancer prognosis, a breakup with a girlfriend and boatload of other stress-inducing factors, and Crow said “I just woke up one night and had a nervous breakdown. I can’t explain it any other way.”
A late uncle helped pick up the pieces and urged his nephew to seek disability and assistance with Social Services, so Crow did and receives disability checks now. He praises the folks at Social Services for their understanding and assistance. Still, he would rather work.
“I keep trying to find a job because that’s just how I am,” he said. “I know I have disabilities. But I’m from a background that if you don’t have a job, then something is wrong with you.”
Even more ironic, Crow’s dream job is a stretch for a stutterer.
“I can’t say how badly I’d love to be a radio (disc jockey) and work at WAXM (a country music station in Norton). I know a lot of nice people who work there. I never miss (a Monday night DJ show) and Bluegrass Connection,” he said.
Meanwhile, Crow keeps his focus on “providing for me and my girlfriend,” who lives in an upstairs apartment, as well as Patches, a rather spirited “rescue cat” Crow acquired from the Wise County Animal Shelter.
As for Christmas, Crow wants nothing for himself, just a little to provide for others if he can.
“The thing I would want most for Christmas is to be able to get my two nieces something. And my girlfriend,” he said. “The way I look at it, taking everything into account, just right now I’ve got more than any one man deserves, you know.”
The Times-News Rescue Fund raised a record $61,672 last year and is one of the few charitable campaigns where every penny goes directly to those in need in the form of food vouchers to help supplement pantries during the holidays.
The number of families seeking assistance has risen each year. In 2008, the Rescue Fund served about 1,700 families, and in 2009 and 2010, the number rose to over 1,900. This year the Salvation Army’s list tops 2,200 families.
Tax deductible donations can be made to the Times-News Rescue Fund at P.O. Box 479, Kingsport, TN 37662.