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Charles Couey, advocate for the blind, dies

NASHVILLE (BP) — Charles Couey, who labored in behalf of blind Southern Baptists for more than 30 years, died Jan. 31 after an accident at his Nashville home. He was 69.

Couey also labored for sighted Southern Baptists to be involved with the blind.

“We need church staff persons, parents, spouses and others who work with blind persons in your church,” Couey said in a Baptist Press article prior to the 2009 meeting of the Southern Baptist Conference for the Blind. “Your knowledge of the literature you use in various ministries of your local church can assist us in helping you provide these materials in a format the blind member can access.”

Couey was one of the organizers of the conference in 1990, with six people in attendance, and he served as its president at various times over the years. He also was the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s consultant on ministries with the blind from 1983-2004 and had served as a Mission Service Corps volunteer with the North American Mission Board.

Couey also had a passion for missions education for boys through Royal Ambassadors and for volunteer missions at home and abroad.

He was “a regular missionary for RA events,” according to a Facebook post by the Tennessee Royal Ambassadors. One RA leader’s boyhood memory was of Couey “playing baseball with a bunch of RAs using his softball that beeped. … Charles never let his lack of vision get in his way of having fun and sharing Christ with others.”

A 1993 mission trip to Santiago, Chile, was a milestone for Couey. “Next to my conversion and the family God has given me, the Chile trip was the greatest spiritual event of my life,” he said. He was the first blind Tennessee Baptist to participate in volunteer missions overseas, a TBC missions leader noted.

Couey, who was a children’s Sunday School teacher at his church, told of holding Chilean children throughout the week’s eight services.

One Chilean woman had said she could not attend services because there was no one to watch her baby. Couey held the baby while he preached so she would attend. The woman accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior later in the week, one of 15 who turned to Christ under Couey’s preaching.

“Being myself and showing compassion for people’s needs is what God used as much as my preaching,” he said.

As an advocate for the blind, Couey was involved in a number of initiatives at various times, producing braille programs for SBC annual meetings and braille copies of several Sunday School resources published by LifeWay Christian Resources and sparking the idea for Tennessee’s Baptist and Reflector newsjournal to coordinate volunteers to do tape recordings and, later digital recordings, of its articles.

Gene Mims, senior pastor of Judson Baptist Church in Nashville where Couey was a member, described him as “a most unusual man because despite being blind he had no limitations. Except for driving, I know of nothing he did not do. He was able to do things despite his blindness that most others do normally and he was able to do more than some people ever attempt to try.

“He always greeted me on Sundays with the same line: ‘You’re looking good today preacher,'” Mims added.

Couey is survived by his wife of 44 years, Charlyene, a former Woman’s Missionary Union director for the Nashville Baptist Association; a son, Jonathan; a daughter, Catholene Buckles; and five grandchildren.

His funeral was Feb. 4 at Judson Baptist Church. In lieu of flowers contributions may be made to the Gideons or the Christian Women’s Job Corp of Middle Tennessee.