Edward Kilcullen, 79, trailblazer in job training for deaf

January 10, 2000|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Edward T. Kilcullen Sr., a Maryland official who developed job training and placement programs for the deaf and hearing impaired, died Thursday of leukemia at his Timonium home. He was 79.

Mr. Kilcullen was coordinator of services for the deaf for the Vocational Rehabilitation Division of the State Department of Education for 22 years until he retired in 1988. In 1967, he helped establish the first civil service examination for deaf post office applicants in conjunction with the U.S. Civil Service Commission.

The pioneering program resulted in the deaf being employed to operate high-speed letter sorting machines at Baltimore's main post office and elsewhere.

In addition, Mr. Kilcullen organized a volunteer training program for postal workers to learn sign language so they could communicate with fellow workers.

Mr. Kilcullen described the success of the program as a "significant breakthrough in the effort to employ those handicapped by deafness," in an interview in The Evening Sun in 1972.

"The deaf come to us lacking previous training for jobs and not really acquainted with the world of work, largely because of the communication barrier. They have an unusual ability to concentrate and not be distracted by noise and have, for example, done very well in the printing industry," he said.

At Western Maryland College in Westminster, Mr. Kilcullen established a program to train students and counselors to work with the deaf and blind.

"His legacy is that there are thousands of deaf and blind people who are now employed and working," said McCay Vernon of South Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., who retired in 1990 after 23 years as a psychology professor at Western Maryland College.

Mr. Kilcullen "was a giant, a trailblazer and a Maryland treasure," Nancy S. Grasmick, state schools superintendent, said yesterday. "His advocacy for deaf children and adults was exceptional and he deserves so much credit for what he accomplished."

"When he first started his work, the deaf community was so segregated. He helped light the way and never once faltered in his genuine commitment to them," she said.

Mr. Kilcullen, who was born in Scranton, Pa., had his college education interrupted by World War II. He served in Naval Intelligence in Washington and Pearl Harbor.

After the war, he earned a bachelor's degree from East Stroudsburg (Pa.) State Teachers College and a master's in education from Loyola College in 1971.

He moved to Baltimore in 1946 and was a physical education teacher and coach at Towson High School during the late 1940s. He was a salesman from 1955 to 1960 and then was a purchasing agent at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

In 1961, he joined the Baltimore Speech and Hearing Association, where he organized community service, educational and social activities for deaf and hearing impaired children and adolescents.

He was a volunteer at Our Daily Bread soup kitchen and Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

Mr. Kilcullen was a 25-year member and past president of the Kiwanis Club of Loch Raven, where he expanded the scholarship program to include adult women who returned to college. He was named Kiwanian of the Year in 1982 and was given Kiwanis International's George F. Hixson Award for outstanding service in 1996.

He was also a member of American Legion Post 183 in Parkville.

Mr. Kilcullen served on advisory committees, task forces and boards for many organizations, including the State Department of Education, the League for the Handicapped and the Maryland Department of Human Resources.

He helped establish the Council of Organizations Serving the Deaf and was an original board member of the National Health Care Foundation in Washington. In 1974, the Maryland Association of the Deaf honored him with its outstanding achievement award.

He enjoyed rose gardening and was an avid sports fan.

A mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today at Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, Baltimore and Ware avenues, Towson.

A foster daughter, Theresa Miller, died in 1974.

He is survived by his wife of 51 years, the former Annamae Flannery; a son, Edward T. Kilcullen Jr. of Annapolis; seven daughters, Maureen Kilcullen, Erin Kilcullen, Pat Johnson, Casey Antonakos and Eileen Morgan, all of Baltimore, Kathy Hutson of Atlanta and Helen Waters of Lake Forest, Ill.; a brother, Robert W. Kilcullen Jr. of Fort Myers, Fla.; a sister, Mary Grace Brier Butler of Scranton; 12 grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

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