Story Weaver.

January 28, 2006.
Greenville Daily News - Greenville,MI,USA.

STANTON — Kathy Rasmussen loves to tell a good story, especially to children.

But when she was forced to retire from her teaching job in her mid-30s, she thought her chances of telling stories were over. At the time Rasmussen was going blind due to a degenerative eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa. She worked for several years with the disease, but eventually completing paperwork became too much for her. She also was forced to quit her part-time job as an art teacher at Montcalm Community College. Today, 30 years later, she is almost completely blind.

Rasmussen, 63, of Stanton has a unique philosophy on life and how being blind has affected her.

“My thoughts on drastic and dramatic changes are that sometimes they occur to us on our life’s journey,” Rasmussen said. “But being flexible, resilient, with a dash of courage, having an open mind for change and finding new ways to do things, a willingness to learn and, for me, having a strong abiding base of spirituality has been very helpful.”

It was the ability to be flexible that led Rasmussen to the next stage in her journey.

One weekend more than 20 years ago, Rasmussen went to the Flat River Community Library and listened to storyteller Mary Hamilton weave a tale. She knew right then this was something she wanted to do.

“She was my kick-starter,” Rasmussen said. “I just wanted to be with children again and share the joy of folklore from around the world.”

In her quest to be a storyteller, she began by getting books on tape and a Kurzweil Reader, a special machine the blind can use to read. Next, she began storytelling before classrooms, libraries, civic groups, luncheons and at the Grand Rapids Art Festival.

“My mission is a mission of joy, to share the gift of story with children and adults,” she said.

Her friends and family members have been very supportive in helping her to obtain her goals, she said. Her husband often takes pictures of her when she tells stories.

“It is quite rewarding to see her do what she likes to do and how it makes her feel when she is successful,” her husband, Don, said.

Rasmussen said telling a story is an incredible experience.

“A wonderful thing happens when a story is told,” she said. “The listeners become part of the story through their own imagination of what has been spoken.”

Rasmussen also started a story telling group last year. The name of the group is Story Weavers — Montcalm Storytelling Guild. See related story.

“My desire to start Story Weavers was to have a story telling group and to share the gift of telling stories to children and adults in Montcalm County and elsewhere.”

Staff writer Amanda Leitch can be reached at or (616) 754-9303 ext. 3068.

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