In Memoriam -- April 2021

Failes was dedicated to deafblind

George Failes
George Failes

A hereditary disease turned George Failes into a dedicated advocate for people with vision and hearing loss. Failes died in March. The longtime St. Paul resident was 94. He most recently lived in Eagan.

Failes attended Cretin High School. He developed hearing loss as a youngster and wore hearing aids in high school. He graduated from the University of St. Thomas, and earned a master’s degree in botany and soils at the University of Minnesota. He was employed at CHS Inc. as a senior agronomist for 24 years until retiring at age 50 due to retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic condition with varying degrees of hearing and sight loss.

He went through a six-month training course with the Minneapolis Society for the Blind and became a peer counselor and volunteer, roles he held for more than 40 years. Failes became involved with groups and organizations including In Touch Inc., State Services for the Blind, Minnesota DeafBlind Association, Vision Loss Resources,  Minnesota Chapter of the American Council of the Blind, Minnesota Senior Federation and the Minnesota STAR program. He served in appointed posts including the Governor’s Advisory Council on Technology for Persons With Disabilities, the Minnesota Department of Human Services DeafBlind Task Force and other groups. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Council for the Blind Minnesota and McKnight Award in Human Services.

Failes was known for saying, “It is time for the disabled person to learn to volunteer his own services. We have civil rights, but there are also civil responsibilities.”

He loved the outdoors, with fishing and water skiing as hobbies. He also enjoyed listening to the Minnesota Twins.

Failes was preceded in death by his wife Margaret, and is survived by two daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A service will be held at a later date. Memorials are preferred to Vision Loss Resources of Minneapolis, www.visionlossresources.org

Ezell worked on church task force

Rev. Roger Ezell’s career included helping Presbyterian church members develop a better understanding of disabilities. Ezell died earlier this year after a long battle with cancer. He was 77 and lived in Orono.

Born at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Ezell spent much of his youth in Iowa. He graduated from Davenport Central High School and St. Ambrose College in Davenport. His studies were in speech/drama and music.

He enlisted in the Army and served as a medic in the Vietnam War. On the troop ship to Vietnam, he entertained the officers and troops. In combat, he rescued the wounded. After Vietnam he toured Europe with the 7th Army Soldiers Chorus for two years.

He returned to the United States and attended the University of Iowa, where he earned a master’s degree in music. He then received a master’s degree in divinity from the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, with a second degree from McCormick Theological Seminary. Ezell served as a Presbyterian pastor in Missouri and Long Lake before retiring in 2006 due to poor health.

During his pastoral career he memorized the Gospel of Mark and delivered it as a 90-minute presentation to audiences in the Midwest. In retirement he served on a Presbyterian Church task force to help churches better understand how disabilities, including PTSD, might affect congregation members.

He also served on the board of Episcopal Group Homes in Wayzata for many years.

Ezell is survived by his wife Roxanne and son David, a sister and other family members. Services have been held.