Alumni Profiles

Partners for Life
With her friends, Norma Farrar Krajczar '51 has done it all

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Scott Taylor Photography

When Norma Farrar Krajczar '51 went on her first business trip, she was terrified. She was in her mid-20s, and at the time, the early 1950s, it was still unusual for women to travel alone for work. But off she went, traveling around the country, appearing on TV, speaking to reporters, giving talks, interviewing applicants and developing more confidence with every trip—thanks in large part to Patty. "We just traveled constantly, she and I," recalls Krajczar. "She was always bailing me out of one problem or another."

Today it's hard to imagine what her life would have been like without Patty, Banna, Bunny, Ingrid, Lonn, Riana and Malcolm— valued partners who have accompanied Krajczar on many trips and even become a key part of her identity. "In addition to physical independence," says Krajczar, "they've given me a great sense of security, as well as my sense of presence in the world." They are, of course, the seven Seeing Eye dogs that have guided Krajczar over the last 57 years.

Krajczar learned while a teen that she was losing her sight to retinitis pigmentosa. At UNH, she still had enough vision left to be able to see the edge of a sidewalk, and she also relied on friends to help her navigate around campus. Energetic and personable, she was elected president of the women's student government, participated in the Outing Club and served as the music director at a conservation camp.

Scott Taylor Photography

After earning a master's degree at Columbia and working at couple of short-term jobs (one at UNH), she was finally able to fulfill her dream of acquiring a Seeing Eye dog. Soon afterwards, she became the first woman field representative for the Seeing Eye dog-guide school. Her German shepherd, Patty, proved invaluable immediately—on a trip to Montreal, poor directions landed Krajczar in the middle of a huge intersection at rush hour. "There was nothing to do but say, in effect, 'It's up to you,' to the dog, and she got me across," says Krajczar. All Seeing Eye dogs are expected to practice "intelligent disobedience," and Krajczar has found German shepherds (she's owned four) to be particularly creative in figuring out what to do in a fix.

When Krajczar married Seeing Eye instructor Ferenc Krajczar three years later, the school's rules required her to resign. She spent a number of years at home with her two children before she was asked by the governor of New Jersey to lead the state's commission for the blind. During 12 years as executive director, she brought financial stability and national accreditation to the organization. And when her husband fell ill, her work supported her family.

At 82, Krajczar has long since retired to North Carolina, but she hasn't lost her get up and go. She plays the organ at church and leads support groups for elders who are newly blind or visually impaired. And she couldn't be doing it all without Malcolm, a black Labrador-golden retriever cross. As much as she admires the problem-solving abilities of German shepherds, she recognizes that "they're creative about getting into trouble, too." Better for this stage of life, she says, is the laid-back Lab who assesses the situation and says, 'You've got a problem here. You decide what to do and tell me how to do it."

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