Bernie Lit, shop owner, learned to speak at 32


Bernie Lit, who overcame hearing and speech impairments to learn how to speak at the age of 32, died April 21 of renal failure at St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington, England. The former Glen Burnie resident was 46.

"I first heard his voice when he was 32, after his English therapists taught him to speak and they sent me a tape," said Evelyn Lit, his mother, who lives in Highlandtown. "His first words were, 'Hello, Mum. I love you.' It was so emotional.

"All of his life he was thought to be both deaf and mute and unable to learn sounds, and it was only after he moved to England that therapists at the General School in London discovered that he could be taught to speak despite the atrophied muscles in his larynx," Mrs. Lit said.

Mr. Lit grew up in both Baltimore and Glen Burnie and was a 1965 graduate of the Maryland School for the Deaf. He studied at Gallaudet University before leaving to go to work in the composing rooms of the News American and, later, The Baltimore Sun.

In 1976, he moved to England, where he continued his education in literature and speech therapy, and learned English sign language.

"There is a difference between American sign language and English because of the different spelling of words and the use of two hands whereas we only use one when signing in this country," Mrs. Lit said.

In England, Mr. Lit made his living as part-owner of Off-Centre Ltd., a framing and gilding shop, and as a bookbinder. He also taught signing at Mildmay Mission Hospice in London.

"He loved to travel and he didn't let his impairment hold him back," his mother said. "He traveled throughout the U.S., Europe and England. He was a free spirit -- and very special."

He enjoyed painting and drawing and collected art and sculpture.

Other survivors include three sisters, Nina Nozemack of Lutherville, Jerri Ann Sunstrom of Glen Burnie and Kim Hudson of Bishopville; his stepmother, Ruth Lit of Ocean City; and a special friend, Glenna Booth of Glen Burnie.

Services were held in England in April and May. Plans for a memorial service in Baltimore are incomplete. Memorial donations may be made to Mildmay Mission Hospice, Hackney Road, London, England, E27NA; or the Hospice of the Chesapeake, 8424 Veterans Highway, Millersville 21108.

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