YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – The local deaf community is mourning the loss of Bill and Judy Schmidt, who were killed early Monday in a house fire on Powers Way in Youngstown.
The victims were deaf and very involved in volunteer work with the hearing impaired. Their 10-year-old granddaughter also was killed in the fire.
Irene Tunanidas taught Bill and Judy Schmidt at Woodrow Wilson High School, where the pair were high school sweethearts. She also is deaf, and she spoke and used sign language to describe the Schmidts to reporter Derrick Lewis.
“I cried. I was heartbroken inside,” Tunanidas said as she looked through the high school yearbook. “Think about the wonderful memories I had with Bill and Judy. They were great people.”
Their paths crossed in 1971 when Tunanidas, a deaf teacher, helped them with their reading and writing.
“Most deaf people are not well-versed in English because it takes time and lot of effort to help them learn how to write,” she said.
At the Youngstown Speech and Hearing Center, the staff offers many services for the deaf community. Steve Leland, a manager at the center, said Bill and Judy were very involved in helping their community.
“Bill talked to many young deaf people about his experience working. Held a job for years, retired from AT&T. He worked as a lineman. He was always talking to the young deaf about the importance of getting a job, holding a job,” Leland said.
Leland said it’s a big loss for them all. Tunanidas said there are not many Bill’s in the world.
“Many deaf people do not understand the significance of volunteer work,” Tunanidas said.
The Youngstown Hearing and Speech Center is offering counseling services for the the deaf community at 5 p.m. Thursday to help with the grieving process.