Grace Napier

Grace D. Napier (Donkersloot)

June 29, 1922 - December 31, 2020
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On December 31, 2020 in Fort Collins, Colorado Dr. Grace Donkersloot Napier peacefully slipped the bonds of earth to be with her Savior and her God. Grace was born in Clifton, New Jersey, on June 29, 1922 the middle child of three siblings.
Grace was married to Charles S. Napier.
Blind since birth, she defied limitations and with great determination and worked to achieve goals deemed unattainable by many.
Grace always loved music. She enjoyed singing and learned to play the piano at an early age and later played the organ. In retirement she continued to play her organ and composed sacred music. Compositions included new tunes to words of old standard hymns, music for specific Scripture, music for specific poems, and songs with original music as well as words.
Also from an early age she focused her attention on education, graduating from Elementary School No. 2 (Patterson), and from Clifton High School - both in New Jersey. Grace continued on to earn four university degrees including a B.A. in music/education from Douglas College, Rutgers University; M.A. in music from New York University; M.A. in elementary education and Ed. D. (Doctorate of Education) in Special Education from Temple University in Philadelphia. She also studied at Ypsilanti Normal College in Michigan, George Peabody College for Teachers in Tennessee, Syracuse University in New York, and the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis campus.
Following graduation from Douglas College Grace obtained a teaching position at the Royer-Greaves School for the Blind (a residential school) in Pennsylvania. In the late 40's she was hired by the New Jersey Commission for the Blind as an itinerant teacher. As an itinerant teacher she either walked to her appointments or took public transportation. Her schools and/or appointments were located in three counties. For ten summers she taught at Syracuse University and it seemed that her reputation began to grow nationally from her

work at Syracuse. It was while she was at Syracuse that she was contacted by the University of Northern Colorado about coming to UNC as part of the faculty. Grace came to UNC in August of 1966 and retired from there in 1986 after twenty years. Grace was the first full-time female faculty member in her department at UNC and the first to coordinate the graduate program for the preparation of teachers of the blind and visually-impaired. Also while at UNC, Grace was responsible for combining two programs into one, namely, academics for blind & visually-impaired students and orientation and mobility (O&M). Grace's endeavor was the first university program of this kind in the nation.
Grace was honored many times during her career including recognition by the 21st Annual Celebrating Women Gala for outstanding achievements in 2014. Most recently, in 2020, Grace was honored by her colleagues and former students with an inscribed stone placed on the Wall of Tribute at the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky.
Grace was a member of the Methodist Church and in the past taught adult Sunday school classes there as well as belonging to a church circle.
Throughout her adult life Grace was an active member in many organizations including: Chapter EC of P.E.O, Greeley Exchange Club, American Business Women's Association, Coffee Break Bible Study, Chapter Alpha Rho of Delta Kappa Gamma Society – International, Emeritus Faculty Group, County Retired School Employees Association, American Association of University Women's Gourmet Readers, Christian Women's Club, Retirees Academic Study Program and the School Attendance Review Board of School District No. Six.
During her career Grace published extensively in professional journals, wrote numerous articles, co-authored books and gave many presentations at regional and national meetings and conventions.

From 2002 through 2017 she wrote three fiction and two non-fiction books. Her favorite book, Meet My Girls tells the stories about her 10 guide dogs. Her last book was written and published when she was 95 years old.
For 75 years Grace had a total of ten Seeing Eye dog guides: German Boxers, German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers. Her dogs she said gave her the independence that she so desperately desired. When Grace was 94 in 2015, her last dog, Esma, died. Grace said that she not only had lost her independence but now she was truly blind.
Grace Napier was a strong-willed woman of courage, persistence and intelligence. Unknown to all us is the number of lives she has enhanced with her dedication to the education of the blind and visually-impaired as well as to the less fortunate among us.

Surviving Grace are her two nephews: Robert Donkersloot (Barbara) of Washington, Iowa, Gary Ridley (Eula) of Yukon, Oklahoma and a special friend Paula Starbuck of Windsor, Colorado.

A Memorial/Celebration of Life service will be held at a later date.

Donations can be made to:
Seeing Eye PO Box 375
Morristown NJ 07963-0375
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Posted at 08:44pm
I got to know Dr. Napier (or Dr. Grace as we called her) when I signed up to take a Braille Transcriptionist class that I found offered in a little story in The Greeley Tribune. Initially the group met at UNC once a week but as number dwindled, the remaining 5 or 6 of us met at Dr. Grace's house. We studied there with her dog, Ruthie, nearby. Around nine months later I submitted my manuscript to The Library of Congress and became certified as a Braille Transcriptionist! Dr. Grace was an amazing teacher who shared her life with us as well as the textbook. She also attended the First United Methodist Church and I would see her there and say hello now and then. I feel very blessed to have known her. Blessings to her family. Jill Johnson

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