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A CLOSE-UP LOOK AT PEOPLE WHO MATTER : A Positive Vision That Yields Rewards

February 08, 1996|ED BOND | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In his mind's eye, David Hunt can still see every inch of his spacious colonial home in a gated community overlooking Chatsworth.

"It would be great if I could see those mountains out there," said Hunt, 47, who because of retinitis pigmentosa has only 2% of his vision left.

Hunt built his dream home in 1987--and had it rebuilt from memory after the Northridge earthquake in 1994--capping a success in business partly driven by the knowledge that he was going to be blind in his 40s.

"I decided I wanted to be a millionaire by the time I was 30," Hunt said. "I made it by 26."

At 7, Hunt learned he had lost his night vision while trick-or-treating.

"I'd walk into trees and the other kids would laugh," Hunt said.

As a teenager, he was told his vision would gradually decrease. After high school he moved in the early '70s to California from North Carolina to pursue a singing career. When that didn't work out, he began selling security systems.

"Money is not my god," Hunt said. "I'm not out to be the richest guy in the world."

But Hunt did want enough money to take care of himself and eventually his family as his eye condition worsened. "I wanted to enjoy life while I still could," he said.

Now Hunt works primarily out of his home, selling security systems and real estate.

"When people meet him, not knowing he can't see, they are shocked when they realize an hour into a meeting that he's blind," said Ed Brook, a friend and head of a Tarzana advertising agency. The two men met about 10 years ago, when Hunt's vision was limited to a narrow field. "The most amazing part of it was that David never skipped a beat from the time he could see to the time he couldn't," Brook said. "I don't know that I could be the guy he is."

Through it all, Hunt has kept his sense of humor, said Brook, who relates an anecdote of watching as Hunt's wife, Deborah, beat him the first time in a game of tennis. "So what's the big deal? You beat a blind man," Hunt joked.

"Half the time you don't even think about him being blind because he's a boisterous, outgoing guy," Brook said.

Another time, Hunt laughs about colliding with his younger brother Alvis when the two went skiing at Big Bear.

"I think our dad was the one who instilled in us not to quit," Alvis Hunt said.

David Hunt learned some other things from his father. From the age of 6, he worked in his father's lumber business and what he learned there about dimensions serves him well today, he said.

Also, he said, "I learned to used my brain and not my brawn."

Hunt said he gives his sons--Derek, 8, and Christopher, 11--similar advice to strive for their goals.

"I teach my kids, 'See it. Believe it. Achieve it,' " Hunt said, adding that they should not listen to naysayers.

Hunt said the source of his positive outlook is something he calls "mental re-engineering," in which he concentrates on improving from failures, rather than dwelling on the past. But, that won't compensate for everything lost.

"There's a lot of frustration with blindness," Hunt said. "I can't see my kids' faces anymore. That hurts a lot."

*

Personal Best is a weekly profile of an ordinary person who does extraordinary things. Please send suggestions on prospective candidates to Personal Best, Los Angeles Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth, 91311. Or fax it to (818) 772-3338.

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