We were all sitting at a conference table in Washington, D.C.’s Embassy Suites Hotel when Charlotte slammed her hand on the table and said, “Look at me, I am deaf.”
Charlotte Schamadan was such a wonderful communicator, her fellow Quota International board members and officers often forgot that she was reading lips. In a forceful way she would occasionally remind us.
Deafness is an unseen disability. Those who have it are not readily identified by any noticeable characteristic. The many people with deafness that Charlotte helped and championed literally never heard her name.
Charlotte was very knowledgeable about the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles. She leveraged that knowledge to help the Institute fundraise at astonishing levels—several millions of dollars.Who was going to turn down Charlotte, who had such a compelling story? Those funds went to good use. They helped the Institute continue refining the cochlear implant which today is used by individuals of all ages to help them hear, develop language and relate to the hearing world. Charlotte arranged a tour of the institute for the Quota International Board that resulted in additional significant financial support.
Although Charlotte was serious about helping the deaf, she often used humor. She wrote a book, “Hearing Aids,” but the subtitle was, “What I Don’t Hear I Make Up.” Her enthusiasm and humor often swept others along to do the right thing and not to stop until it was done.
Quota International, Inc. in 1985 selected Charlotte as the International Deaf Woman of the Year. It was the beginning of Charlotte’s international campaign to positively impact the lives of deaf and hard of hearing children and adults. She was a fierce advocate and her megaphone got louder when she was elected Quota International President in 1997. She educated, advocated and pushed for support and accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing. She gave speeches about the experience of deafness and explained to thousands of listeners the things that people should and should not do in communicating with \deaf individuals. She supported schools for the deaf and she pushed for Quota scholarships for deaf students. Quota International of Monrovia did many fundraisers to support services for the deaf, including programs of the John Tracy Clinic and local schools.
Charlotte’s greatest contribution was probably being a role model for deaf and hard of hearing individuals. She showed that deafness doesn’t pose an obstacle to success.
When Charlotte took on causes, often accompanied by her husband Lee, she was all in. She was instrumental in many of Monrovia’s signature accomplishments over four decades, among them the Monrovia Centennial Celebration in 1986-87, the successful All-America City Award in 1995, the $34 million school bond that passed in 1997, and funding for the beautiful new library in 2009. Over the years she was deeply involved with Monrovia’s Historic Preservation Group, Education Foundation and Children’s Hospital Guild, the Foothill Developmental School, Monrovia Cable Commission, the Coordinating Council and a host of Chamber of Commerce committees. She was the first recipient of Monrovia’s Iris Award (Citizen of the Year) in 1987. Good causes, large and small—in Monrovia, across the country and internationally—bear Charlotte’s handprint.
An inspirational plaque on Charlotte’s office wall said it beautifully: “Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Others stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same.” Charlotte Schamadan was certainly one of those people.
Written by Bobbie Carey
Past International President