Most of the time when one thinks of “getting a lemon” the first thing to pop into one’s head is a car with lots of problems. In fact, there is a “lemon law” on the books to remedy these kinds of faulty purchases.
However, it is possible to be handed a lemon in life. So it was with Rick Hohn. Delivered in 1947 by a doctor so drunk that his judgment was severely impaired, Hohn was relegated to a life locked in a body that was determined not to obey any of the commands put to it by his brain, the condition better known as Cerebral Palsy.
Today, one who knows Hohn would be quick to say that he has taken that lemon and, with the help of God, made delicious lemonade. On Sunday, Dec. 14, friends gathered in Vista to celebrate with Hohn the publishing of his autobiography, More than a Watchmaker. Using a long stick, securely fastened to a band strapped to his head, Hohn typed ten hours a day, six days a week for more than five years to produce this work. Hohn’s father designed this contraption many years before to help his frustrated young son communicate. This tool and an electric typewriter opened the world to Hohn and allowed people to see just what an intelligent person he really was. The only ones able to understand his garbled speech were his parents. Now he had the means to communicate to those about him and, regardless of the neck strain or the time it might take to make a statement, he would pay the price.
With the only limb he can control, his head, he is able to live his life. With the slightest move of it against the lever at the back of his neck, he is able to move about freely in his motorized wheelchair. In recent years, with the aid of a device called a Dyna-Vox, Hohn now has a voice. By typing into the computer fastened onto the front of his wheelchair, he can flip a switch and an electronic voice speaks out his message.
And of messages, he has not a few. Hohn, with the help of an aide, travels all over preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whom he loves with a passion. His messages of encouragement are life-changing. It’s hard for one to continue to have a pity-party when confronted with such joy and hope as Hohn exudes.
Never content to stay on the sidelines and watch life pass him by, Hohn joined Joni Erickson-Tada and a group of disabled Christians in 1993 on a ministry trip to Russia. They went throughout Russia bringing hope and encouragement to disabled people of that country.
In addition to writing his book, Hohn also writes poetry and is an artist of some renown. His work has been shown in galleries around the state and recently had a one-man showing in La Jolla.
Hohn married Irene in 1995, herself a Cerebral Palsy victim, and together, aided by a cadre of very caring attendants, the Hohns reside in a home in Vista.
When his parents were told of the extent of his disability, the doctor tried to soften the blow by saying, “Rick will never be a watchmaker but he will be able to do many other useful things.” In his book, one can see what an understatement that was.
For a copy of the book, send $20 to Rick Hohn, 1125 Cottontail Road, Vista, CA, 92083.
Mary Frances Froese of Vista is a freelance writer.