Memorial Day : Friends of Deaf Activist Slain Last Year Hold Picnic to Keep Her Name Alive

Times Staff Writer

Members of Orange County’s deaf community honored the memory of Priscilla Vinci on Saturday, a year and three days after she was stabbed to death in her Santa Ana home.

A picnic in Garden Grove was sponsored by the Southern California Recreation Assn. of the Deaf, Orange County. One purpose of the picnic was to raise money for a memorial fund in Vinci’s name to help organizations she would have supported or needed.

“We want to keep her name alive,” said John Yingst, the picnic chairman, whose signing was interpreted by Jeanette Farnsworth. “She worked so hard” at setting up the association, he said. “We want to praise her for her work.”


Vinci, who also was deaf and was a leader in the local deaf community, was found stabbed to death May 4, 1987, on her kitchen floor. She was 34 years old. Vinci’s 65-year-old mother, Josephine, who shared the home with her, was found sprawled beside her daughter, also stabbed to death.

Ronald James Blaney Jr., a 31-year-old deaf man who has been described as Priscilla Vinci’s estranged boyfriend, was arrested two days later in Arizona and has been ordered to stand trial on murder charges.

Priscilla Vinci was among an emerging group of deaf political and social activists who want deaf people--not hearing people--to determine what is best for them. Toward that end, Vinci in 1986 had helped form the Recreation Assn. of the Deaf, which organizes group activities.

Deaf people tend to be scattered geographically, said Farnsworth, whose deaf husband, Carl, is an officer in the association. “Recreation for hearing people is usually not accessible to deaf people because they can’t hear things like the announcements at a bowling game.”

The picnic at Eagle Island Park, a private Kiwanis Club facility on Larson Avenue, was the type of activity the association promotes year-round, she said.

In addition to typical picnic fare--a dunking tank, games for children, and hot dogs and beer--the event featured a gallery of informational booths operated by agencies and programs that serve the deaf.

The program included entertainers, including a deaf musician and a deaf mime.

The picnic raised about $6,000 in advance ticket sales, and more tickets were sold at the door.

The program also included a prayer service and the first disbursement from the Priscilla Vinci Memorial Fund, a $300 donation to Su Casa, a Cypress-based shelter for abused women, including deaf women.