Hometown Hero: John Golembiowski of Hooksett sees fine when it comes to altruism 

By RAY DUCKLER

Monitor staff

Published: 02-16-2023 12:42 PM

Apparently, it’s going to take more than legal blindness to force John Golembiowski of Hooksett to pull over and stop reaching out.

Even with macular degeneration limiting his field of view to the outer edges of what he’s looking at, Golembiowski sees well enough, in familiar surroundings near his home, to zip around on his electric trike to deliver vegetables from his garden to his friends.

“He always overplants,” said Golembiowski’s daughter, Kathy Ivon of Northfield. “Too many tomatoes, too much squash gives him an excuse to ride around and he drops little bags of vegetables off. He sees well enough to get him out and it gives him something to do.”

Golembiowski’s upbeat personality has remained stable since his condition worsened five years ago. He volunteers at his local church, mows neighbors’ lawns, and will fix anything for anybody. Just ask him. That’s why his daughter nominated Golembiowski to join the Monitor’s Hometown Hero hall of fame.

“He is an inspiration to others who also have macular degeneration, showing them anything is possible and not to give up,” Ivon wrote in her nominating email. “My Mom isn’t well and he cares for her also. He’s quick to check on an ailing friend or someone who just needs to talk.”

Golembiowski’s sight was fine during a varied career that included working on his family farm in Ohio, owning his own landscaping company, working as a deep-hole drilling machinist, and at 33, joining Shaw’s staff and carving out a career there as a store manager for more than three decades.

He’s thankful for what he’s had and what he is still able to do. He gave up his driver’s license two years ago, at age 81. By then, he had already turned in his motorcycle license, two years before.

“That was the hardest thing I had to do,” Golembiowski said by phone. “I could no longer simply go out for a burger at McDonald’s. I had to swallow my pride and I didn’t like that. But I didn’t want to hurt anyone.

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“It’s bad enough getting old and having to give up stuff, but God gave me good eyes for 75 years and now I have this. Don’t feel sorry for me. I am okay.”

Golembiowski said his vision began declining about 10 years ago. At first, doctors believed cataract surgery might improve his eyesight, but a final diagnosis of macular degeneration meant his condition was irreversible and actually would worsen over time.

“When they said removing my cataracts would not help is when I really knew something was wrong,” Golembiowski said.

He watches TV from three feet away. He described his eyesight this way — “If you’re staring at me in my face I could tell who you are. If you were across the room I’d have no idea. It’s not dark, it’s just that I can not see detail in the middle. If you look straight, you can not see anything, just the outside edges.”

That hasn’t slowed him down much. As Ivon said in an interview, “I don’t know how he does half of what he does. You never hear him complain, not one bit.”

He’s been helping with weekend markets in the gymnasium at the Tower Hill Church Food Ministry, setting up booths on Friday nights to give away baked goods, vegetables, fruit, dry goods and meats. He mentors others with fading eyesight.

And, when his garden is booming and the weather is warm, when Golembiowski has yet again grown more vegetables than he can handle, he bags them, hops on his trike, and sets his sights on his friends.

“I drop it off, hang the bag on their doorknob,” Golembiowski said. “They know it’s me. I’ve been doing this for many years.”

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