West Virginia woman born deaf to serve as grand marshal of parade that changed her life

WILLIAMSON, WV (WOWK) — It has been 40 years since the first time Billie Roddy Rogers was able to hear the sounds of the world around her and the Grand Marshal of the city of Williamson’s Christmas parade will be Rogers.

“The first sound I heard was ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’,” Rogers recalled. “The first song I learned to sing was ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’.”

Christmas time will always be a little extra special for Rogers. The holiday transports her back to the time when her life changed for the better.

She was born completely deaf. She said multiple doctors told her mom she was mute and “mentally challenged.”

Until she got a diagnosis and connected with a doctor who did surgery to restore her hearing. His name was Dr. John Shea.

After the surgery, Dr. Shea said it could be several months before they’d know if the procedure worked.

Rogers and her mom Linda Curry Maynard got their answer in 1982 at the Christmas parade in downtown Williamson.

“When she reached down I was holding my ears and I was crying,” Rogers said. “Of course, you couldn’t hear me crying because of all of the noise. But I was crying because it was making my ears hurt and that is when they realized I could hear.”

Maynard said it is a moment she will never forget.

“I just cried. I just didn’t know what to do. I cried. She cried and everybody was staring at us,” Maynard said. “Her world changed after that day. Everything was different.”

This year Rogers was invited to be the Grand Marshal of the parade. It is an experience she’s excited to share with her daughter and of course her mother who was there to witness the special moment 40 years ago.

“This is my Christmas present to myself,” Maynard said. “I tell everybody this story every year. Anybody that knows me has heard this story a hundred times because it is such a blessing and the best Christmas present you could ask for.”

Rogers said that her experiences waiting for a diagnosis prepared her to advocate for her own daughter, who also had an illness that took a long time to identify.

You can learn more about the parade here.

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