Spend a few minutes with the woman affectionately known as “Jersey Jeanne,” and you’ll quickly discover that she’s a dedicated and determined spirit who not only accomplishes whatever she sets her mind to, she often exceeds her loftiest ambitions.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Jeanne Goldy-Sanitate is a New Jersey Air National Guard and United States Air Force veteran who holds a master’s degree in optometry and specialized in helping veterans with low vision. She’s won nearly a dozen medals in world-class athletic competitions across the country and also serves on two commissions for the state of Delaware. She’d accomplished this, and much more, by the young age of 58, yet couldn’t take a shower in the newly constructed Rehoboth home she shares with her husband, Jim.
Jeanne became a paraplegic after sustaining a fracture of the T-12 vertebra when the military vehicle she was riding in rolled over during an Operation Readiness Exercise at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Ga., in 1984. While she was proud of her new house, it was constructed with a lip that prevented water from running from the shower onto the floor. It also prevented her from getting in it.
“The VA (Veterans Administration) required that I get multiple quotes from different vendors, and the prices were
all coming back comparable,” Jeanne recalled. “The problem was that no one was listening to what I wanted. Greg was the only one who truly listened, brought in the samples I requested and designed the space to accommodate my needs.”
Greg Herling, owner of Herl’s Bath & Tile Solutions not only created a larger, barrier-free shower for Jeanne, he and his crew transformed Jeanne’s space into a relaxing retreat.
“My bathroom looks more Zen-like, more spa-like and I just love it,” Jeanne said. “It’s wheelie-friendly, and it’s simply beautiful.”
Herl’s worked with the VA to ensure all of the requirements in Jeanne’s bathroom were met. They also incorporated new tile, radiant heat under the flooring and added stones in a chocolate-colored grout in the shower floor.
“Greg’s company just rocked it,” Jeanne said. “This is exactly what I wanted — it’s even better, actually. The stones in the shower floor massage my good foot, and it feels great.”
Jeanne had always suffered from pain, numbness and other ailments for years following her accident. But when these symptoms became debilitating in 1998, her challenges were about to increase significantly: Jersey Jeanne was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis the following year.
The news devastated her. Coupled with the loss of her job, due to her condition, subsequent depression and worsening pain, Jeanne’s ever-burning spirit was slowly being extinguished.
“That was a very hard time for me,” Jeanne said.
Her love of sports and desire to compete were reborn in 2006, when she participated in the National Wheelchair Games in Anchorage, Ala. It was her first experience on such a big stage against phenomenal athletes. When the games were over, Jeanne returned to Delaware with three gold medals and one bronze. Since then, she’s captured medals in the Warrior Games and hand cycled all over the country, among other activities she does like Nordic biathlons, rock climbing, swimming and golf.
“Adaptive sports gave me my life back,” she said. “I really love the competition and the camaraderie. Sports saved my life, and I’m not going to stop.”
She’s also a proud member of the Delaware State Council of Disabled People, a commission dedicated to gaining accessibility for handicapped persons in the workplace.
“I can win all of these medals, and that’s great, but my biggest hurdle is finding a darn parking space, so I can put the ramp down in my van without hitting another car,” Jeanne said. “I often can’t get out because someone has taken the spot reserved for people like me. My work with the state will help me, but it will help other wheelies as well, and that’s the best thing.”
HERL’S BATH & TILE SOLUTIONS
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