10/03/2010

Jeweler Steve Hall is a survivor of childhood polio


Jeweler Steve Hall is a survivor of childhood polio.
RONALD W. ERDRICH/REPORTER-NEWS
Jeweler Steve Hall is a survivor of childhood polio.
The demarcation between polio sufferer and polio survivor for Steve Hall was as simple as a line drawn by his mother with a wet bar of soap.
Hall spent the first 2½ years of his life in Hendrick Medical Center after contracting two types of polio at birth, plus pneumonia.
He remembers well the day that he finally came home. Months later, with bulky braces covering his legs, his mother, Helen Hall, kick-started his recovery into high gear.
“She took those leather and steel things with the high-top brown shoes off, and she said, ‘This is the last time you’re going to wear these,’” said Hall, 57. “She drew lines on the floor with a wet bar of soap and taught me to walk. I still remember my first steps.”
Shortly after he began walking the soapy tightrope to recovery, he was able to walk unassisted.
Hall shared his story Friday with the Rotary Club of Abilene to help raise awareness for the World Polio Day Dinner set Tuesday at Abilene Christian University’s Hunter Welcome Center. The dinner is part of Rotary International’s drive to eradicate polio worldwide by raising $200 million to match $355 million in challenge grants received from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As of Aug. 31, Rotarians have raised about $145 million toward that cause.
Polio has largely been eliminated in all but four countries — Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan — but total eradication is the goal that Hall endorses.
These days, just getting Hall to sit still is a challenge.
Hall has worked in the jewelry business in Abilene for 32 years, including the past 17 years as owner of Steve Hall Jewelers on Cypress Street. He spends hours in his studio, especially during the holiday season. He even helped start the Potosi Volunteer Fire Department, where he served as fire chief for 11 years.
It’s a work ethic that has been with him since his youth when he spent time loading hay and sweating through other chores with his four brothers.
“He’s determined,” said Rebecca Hall, Steve’s wife of 37 years. “I can tell that, sometimes, it does affect him and makes him seem tired or weaker but only in a physical sense. Emotionally and in everything else, he’s such a strong fighter.”
Water therapy was another vital part of Hall’s recovery, although it wasn’t easy to do since all public swimming pools in Abilene had closed. “They thought (swimming in public pools) might be one of the main causes of spreading polio,” Hall said. “If you asked my grandmother, though, she would have told you a different story: My grandmother thought it was bananas. But that’s not the reason I don’t like them.”
Hall later became one of the first patients at the West Texas Rehabilitation Center. The assistance he received there made him want to become a physical therapist. He was an athletic trainer at Wylie High School and went to the then-Cisco Junior College to study sports medicine.
That’s when he felt the pull toward making jewelry. He always had enjoyed carving wood but realized that by carving wax into molds, he could create beautiful pieces of jewelry. After a few years at the local Timex Watch factory, he worked in jewelry repair and gold design before opening Steve Hall Jewelers in 1993.
“My parents were told that I probably wouldn’t get out of a wheelchair or I would be using crutches or braces my entire life,” Hall said. “I was fortunate. ... And I want to return the favor to all of those people — the doctors, the nurses, the physical therapists — that helped me get to where I am today.”
Hall then recounted a story his mother told him 10 years ago about a dream she’d had. She dreamed that she had died, and she found herself in a large white room with a single chair in the middle of it. Hanging on the arm of the chair was a hand-woven basket containing highly polished stones of all sizes and types. She took the basket in her hand and sat down. A figure appeared in the doorway and called her name.
“She said, ‘I stood up and got the basket and put it under my arm and started toward the figure,’” Hall said. “The figure said, ‘What do you have there?’ She said, ‘Well, these are my accomplishments. These are my good deeds. These are the things that I’m proudest of in my life.’ He said to her, ‘Those you leave behind.’”
Helen Hall died in 2009, but the dream still resonates with her son.
“I just feel like, at this time in my life, I need to add more stones to my basket,” Steve Hall said.

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