Joan Kleinrock Leaves a Legacy of Support in HLAA Chapters

By Barbara Kelley, Executive Director, Hearing Loss Association of America

Joan Kleinrock head shot pictureJoan Carlucci Kleinrock, 86, passed away peacefully at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, on November 9, 2021, after being admitted for pneumonia. Joan, along with Founder Rocky Stone, built the HLAA Chapter network we know today.

She met Founder Rocky Stone after seeing a newspaper notice about a new organization called Self Help for Hard of Hearing People, known today as the Hearing Loss Association of America. She literally knocked on the door of the Stone family home and, like so many people, she needed information and support which, up until 1979, was not available.

Joan has the distinction of being the first full-time volunteer to help HLAA Founder Rocky Stone build his fledgling organization, joining him in 1980, just months after its inception in November 1979, 42 years ago this month. She became the SHHH Chapter coordinator in 1981, a staff position she held until she retired in 1998. She was a member of the SHHH Board of Trustees from 1982-1988 and the recipient of the Rocky Stone Humanitarian Award in 1992. Joan continued as the HLAA professional adviser for chapter development until her death. Just a few days ago she asked, “How are the chapters doing?”

Joan Kleinrock chapter map
Joan put chapters on the map and here she’s putting a pin in a newly-formed chapter. Photo taken in 1990 at the national office in Bethesda.

In 1982, she completed the first “chapter manual” to assist 25 chapters. In May 1984, SHHH held its convention in Chicago and many of attendees returned home committed to starting chapters. By November that same year, there were 122 chapters.

Joan traveled the country finding people who wanted to start chapters, people hungry for information and to meet others with hearing loss. She wrote thousands of letters, later emails, and influenced the peer-to-peer support network we know today. She kept a map of the United States in her office and when a new group or chapter formed, she excitedly put another pin on the map. We can say Joan put SHHH/HLAA Chapters on the map! Her contribution to our organization was formidable.

Joan wrote in a memoir about Founder Rocky Stone:

“I was searching for meaningful work that could make a difference. Out of the blue, I saw a newspaper notice of an initial meeting of a chapter for an organization for people with hearing loss. I’d never had anyone to share my hearing loss with. The founder Howard Stone would be there. I could barely wait for that day to come.”

The greatness of HLAA today and the differences we now enjoy as people with hearing loss is largely because SHHH/HLAA, founded and influenced by Rocky, continues to grow through empowered people. Today, Rocky would remind us that we did this together, and together we will move on. Personally, I am still in awe of the privileged opportunity I had to be a small part of making a difference.”

Joan is survived by two sons and two grandsons. The family has asked that contributions can be made to HLAA in Joan’s memory.

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