Jeffrey Kincaid – now 63 years old – has made his family proud with his spirit and tenacity that went against all odds in the life of an individual who became severely handicapped after being bitten by a encephalitis carrying mosquito at the age of two.
The toddler spent a long time in the hospital where family feared they might lose their oldest son.
“My mother and dad were always with me,” he remembered.
He credited the Future Farmers of America for giving him direction in his youth .
Ella Mangelos was in his high school class and her younger brother John followed two years later. John told Jeff that everyone in Ripon had his back. John graduated with Jeff’s younger brother Barry.
Now back in Ripon and working as a volunteer at the Clarence Smit Memorial Museum on Main Street, he had spent some 30 years working for the federal government in the Farmers Home Loan Administration. In his youth he remembers hearing family and friends say he would never make it to high school because of the partial paralysis to the left side of his body that had been caused by a mosquito bite that took away his ability to walk and to talk.
One of five children, his grandmother would drive him up to Stockton for his elementary school years early each morning for speech and occupational therapy as well, having to get up at 4 a.m. Jeff remembers she was so very concerned about his condition that she went before the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors and lobbied for the creation of a Mosquito Abatement District to be formed.
The supervisors told her it would cost too much in funding to build and abatement center, saying it would be years before anything could be created. Jeff said she hammered away and asked if her grandson’s life and that of others wasn’t worth the money. “What is my grandson’s life worth?” she asked them. She was a woman who wouldn’t take no for an answer, he said, and the new district was formed as a way to eradicate the ever growing mosquito population coming from standing water in the fields and the nearby Stanislaus River.
He remembered meeting the challenges of his handicap especially when a storm would come through Ripon before New Melones Dam had been built. The curbs were built higher than they are now because the street would turn into its own channel – making it hard for him to get over the double high curbs. He often had to crawl through the water, and if he fell, he would have to wait for a Good Samaritan to come along and help him back up to his feet or carry him.
“Encephalitis was the illness and Cerebral Palsy was the condition,” he explained.
He even became an official poster child for the Cerebral Palsy Foundation.
Following some eight years in Stockton going to various therapy sessions and getting his elementary education he became a freshman at Ripon High School where he was named manager of the football team, basket ball team and for the wrestling team – standing tall in the school yearbook in front of the team member in the sports section of the annual.
Jeff would test at the top of his classes in high school and in college to the dismay of the surprise of early doubters who had said he would not make it into high school.
He can be seen in his yearbook at the museum proudly standing for a picture with those individual teams.
He went on to Modesto Junior College for two years and then to Fresno State where he completed his Bachelor’s Degree with honors and then he went after his Masters Degree also at Fresno State.
Following graduation he landed a job as a clerk for the Internal Revenue Service at the Fresno Service Center and later went on to be hired on staff with the Farmers Home Administration which would take him away from his Ripon hometown.
A few years later he was transferred to the High Desert community of Victorville where he experienced snow for the first time as he was driving to his office remembering his brother Barry’s admonition of how to drive in the snow. Jeff’s car was sliding backwards on black ice when his brother’s advice came back to him in a flash: “Take your foot off the gas as well as the brake!” He said he slid onto the wrong side of the road but he fortunately didn’t hit anything.
Jeff’s car has control modifications on his steering wheel that help with his partial paralysis and makes it possible for him to drive safely, he said.
When he applied for the job at Farmers and was still working for IRS, he had to fight for the position, he remembers. He was told he could not be considered for the administrative position back in 1984 because of his handicap.
“I filed an appeal with the Equal Opportunity Commission and won. The administrator at the time said I sounded like a black man in a white man’s world. I never once had a problem with my clients. I followed the Golden Rule,” he said.
After 15 months in Victorville with the Farmers Home Administration he was transferred back into the Central Valley to Merced with the two agencies merging to form the new Farm Service Agency. He is now among the retired in Ripon and is living in a Bethany Town Square apartment.
“I don’t consider myself to be disabled,” he said, “but other people consider me to be disabled,” as he often struggles to walk and to talk the best that he can.
From 1986 to 1994 Jeff served on the President’s Committee for the Disabled and saw people he said appeared worse off than he was at the time. Seeing people meet and conquer their challenges, he remembered thinking, “If he can do it in his condition, I sure as hell can!”
Jeff said he learned early in life to never say he was bored, especially to his father. His dad would say there are 50 acres outside. Find something to do or I will find something for you.
He said he was pegged both in high school and college as a “C” student with certain teachers in college doing the same thing while he was getting A’s in his Ag classes. He said it could make a person feel like that could only accomplish “C” work, but he wasn’t letting that stop him.
His grade point average for his Bachelor’s degree in college was 3.42 in Ag and for his Master’s degree a 2.11 in Agricultural Economics. Away from Ripon for more than 30 years, he is back and loving his volunteer position at the museum.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email firstname.lastname@example.org.