Edwin P. Pfeiffer easily could have sat back in a rocking chair and felt sorry for himself because he had lost his sight.
But the 63-year-old former businessman decided eight years ago to transfer his 40 years of business experience to people already in business who have questions, those having trouble in business or those contemplating getting into business for themselves.And he also decided to produce sheets of paper explaining various business requirements (registration, taxes, minimum-wage laws, unemployment insurance, zoning and licenses) in large print for people with limited sight and into Braille for those who are totally blind.
His next project is to write an outline for a business plan in large print or Braille. "It is my way of paying people back for everything that has been done for me," said Pfeiffer, deftly patting his guide dog Jestro, which helps him get around to volunteer work.
Pfeiffer's story begins in Buffalo, N.Y., where he was born and attended military school. He graduated from State University of New York where he majored in food technology and entered the family's restaurant business. Soon the family developed a salad dressing business and he was vice president in charge of operations.
About eight years ago, Pfeiffer was working as a production manager for a food company in Rochester, N.Y., and left work one night. "I was lying on the couch and got an extreme pain in my head. I woke up the next morning and I couldn't see and my short memory was affected," he said.
"I was very depressed. The stroke had destroyed the nerves that govern eyesight," he recalled. He paid tribute to his wife (Rae) for keeping him from getting too depressed.
His daughter, Robin, was working on a master's degree at the University of Utah at the time, and she suggested that her father and mother come to Salt Lake City to see what the people at the eye clinic at the University of Utah Medical Center could do for his eyes.
He took her advice, but the prognosis wasn't good.
His wife heard about the Murray B. Allen Blind Center. An employee suggested he attend classes designed to teach people how to cope with their blindness. "I can't say enough good things about the school," said Pfeiffer. "Every time I started feeling sorry for myself I realized there were other students who had bigger problems than I."
"It changed my thinking and I decided to become a useful citizen. I had heard about the Small Business Administration's Service Corps of Retired Executives and went to the office and got accepted as a counselor," Pfeiffer said.
"I enjoy the experience because I am giving a good service to people just starting in business." He also took a SCORE workshop to the Utah State Prison and explained to the inmates the requirements of getting into business after they were released.
His son purchased a home in Florida three years ago and wanted his father to live in it so the Pfeiffers packed up and went there for two years. But he didn't like the humidity, the high crime rate and inhospitable people so they came back a year ago and are renting a house.
Pfeiffer does volunteer work at the blind center four days per week and on the morning of another day he volunteers at the SCORE office, helping fledgling businessmen and -women. SBA officials believe he is the only blind SCORE member in the U.S.
Asked if people react to him differently because of his blindness, Pfeiffer said he can sense they are concerned at first, "but once I answer their questions they feel comfortable."