The late Bill Peterson of Manti, who founded and ran the nonprofit Palisade Pals as well as an insurance agency, dictated his life story as a book to Shirley Bahlmann in 2005. Now posthumously published, Peterson’s book is titled after one of his favorite sayings: Being Blind’s No Handicap: It’s Just Damned Inconvenient. After his death in 2019, his wife, Cindy, and Bahlmann collaborated to finish his life story. They’ve done their best to keep Bill’s voice true to the way he spoke and in his own words.
The book shares much of Bill’s life story, focusing on when he lost his second eye in a snowmobile accident in 1981 (he was already blind in one eye from age 5 from a child’s game), how he adjusted to being blind, and the courage of his wife and family.
With the support of the community, Bill didn’t let blindness stop him.
In 1982, Bill decided he wanted to drive in the demolition derby. The Fair Board wasn’t happy, and the other drivers weren’t happy, but Bill said he still had his license and wanted to do it. Practicing with an old jeep and a partner named Tom with a walkie-talkie, he thought he was ready.
The book recounts: “A BYU TV news crew came down to document me in the derby. The cameraman climbed on the hood of my car and was filming as I drove into the arena. Well, I had no idea he was there. Tom did not mention it. He just told me to ‘show off.’
“So, I punched my 455 cubic inch Buick and let her roar. We were fishtailing across the arena, throwing dirt fifteen feet high. As I am having a ball, the cameraman is holding onto the car and his camera for dear life. Suddenly I hear over the earphones, ‘STOP!’
“I slammed on the brakes and the man, camera and all, went sliding off into the mud, the muck, and the fence. I thought the laughter and applause was for me.
“I didn’t find out what had happened until long after the derby. Nobody dared tell me.”
This book shows one of Manti and Sanpete’s most noted and beloved residents, who loved life and didn’t let a little thing like blindness stop him from helping others.
This unique life story is available at Ephraim Co-op, Jensen’s Dept. Store in Manti, Big G Automotive and on Amazon for $14.95.