Margaret Battle Winchester, Blind Activist Passes at 100 years

At the age of 100, Mrs. Margaret Battle Winchester passed away peacefully at home surrounded by loved ones this past weekend. Selfishly, I am very sad and will miss one of my greatest role models dearly, but, I know she lived a wonderful life and helped so many people during her journey. Mrs. Winchester, who was the recipient of the CBVI Beacon Award in 2014, was born in Philadelphia on July 24, 1920 and was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at the age of 29. By then she had married and was living in Cumberland County. Relying on her inner qualities of  strength and determination, she continued to expertly manage her household and parenting responsibilities. She soon was driven to seek out others in her rural community who were also experiencing vision loss. She encouraged them not to allow their loss of eyesight diminish their sense of self-worth and she provided instruction in the techniques she herself used to maintain independence in the  successful performance of daily living activities. For years, whenever Mrs. Winchester was called, she would visit people who’d loss their vision and dreamed of one day having a place where she could bring all of the people she’d been mentoring together.

In 1978, with the support of the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders, her family, and close friend Gladys Pierce, she realized her dream of  establishing a day-program where people who are blind can come and participate in activities and programs designed to improve their quality of life. 

Her desire to expand the ability to meet the growing needs of the numbers of people coming to take advantage of the day program inspired Mrs. Winchester’s greater efforts, resulting in the building of the current MARGARET WINCHESTER ENRICHMENT CENTER FOR THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED, INC. The center, which is  located at 168 Sunny Slope Drive, Bridgeton, NJ, was dedicated on October 17, 1990.

The center’s mission: “Our clients have a right to expect to be provided with tools and ways to utilize the best that our rapidly changing society has to offer. It is this agency’s continuing obligation to make those ways available. Together we can move closer and closer toward reaching these goals.”

Mrs. Winchester as the Founder served as the Daily Supervisor of Operations up until, she retired at the age of 88 and served on the Board until the age of 94. As recently as during my last visit with Dr. Davis in September 2019, she could still be found at the center every day, inspiring and encouraging every person who walked through the doors.

Her homegoing services will be streamed via Zoom by the Union Baptist Temple ALMS Center in Bridgeton, NJ on Sunday, 10/11/2020; Viewing 12 - 2:00 p.m. and funeralization ceremony 2:00 p.m. For further information, please call The Winchester Center at: 856-451-5623 or Union Baptist at: 856-451-6054. (In lieu of flowers, please contact the Winchester Center for information on plans to establish the Margaret Winchester Scholarship for a NJ Social Work or Divinity student who is blind, deaf-blind or visually impaired).

Other Boards on which Mrs. Winchester served 

NJ Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (NJCBVI) Board of Trustees 

(Although it was nearly a 3 hour commute  each way, she never missed a meeting during her tenure) 

Executive Board, NJ Network of Organizations for the Blind and Visually Impaired 

Southern Region Consumer Advisory Board, NJCBVI 

Cumberland County Special Transportation Advisory Council 

Cumberland County Disabled Citizens’ Advisory Board 

Cumberland County ADA/504 Compliance Committee 

State Board of Human Services – Family Development 

Honors and Awards Include: (The complete list is 3 pages in length) 

1983 and 1986  Recipient of Outstanding Achievements Award from Gov. Thomas Kean 

1986 Named NAACP (Vineland Chapter) Woman of the Year 

1986 Appointed by Gov. Kean to the NJCBVI Board of Trustees 

1991 Harriet Tubman Award – Martin Luther King Academy 

1994 Senior Star Volunteer Award from Gov. Christy Whitman 

1994 and 1995 – Who’s Who of America – Honored Member 

1997  Honored by the Mayor and City Council of Bridgeton, NJ  

1997  Recognized for her contribution to the White House Conference on Aging 

2000 NJDHS/CBVI Lifetime Achievement Award 

2001 Outstanding Older Worker – National Prime Time Award (Presented by Pres. G.W. Bush) 

2001 Recognized as Outstanding Older Worker by Congressman Frank Lobiondo 

2003 Community Hero Award from United Way of Greater Cumberland County 

Well done, Mrs. Winchester - Well done.