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The Quiet Man

Like the rest of the family, Van Boening's mother, Timi Bloomberg, excelled in national amateur competition.

HE WAS born on July 14, 1983, to 20-year-old Timi Bloomberg and her husband of one year, Craig Van Boening. In another six months, Shane's mismatched parents were divorced.

An unsavory and unreliable character, his father was no more than a peripheral influence as Shane grew up. "Shane's dad is not a very good dad," Timi said.

Life on Timi's side of the family revolved around the pool table. Grandpa Gary was an ambitious road player in his prime, and once played the legendary Ralph Greenleaf. Settling in Rapid City, he opened a string of poolrooms, including 8-Ball Express. He taught his daughters, Timi and Gari Jo, how to play at a championship level. Together with their mom, Jeanne, they ruled the state championships and were near-legends on the national amateur circuit.

"We were always at the poolhall," Timi remembered. It was nothing to perch infant Shane on a pool table like it was a shallow crib, and let him roll the balls.

When Shane was 1 year old, his mom suggested to his doctor that he might have a hearing problem. "I'd walk into a room, and he would jump even though I had been talking to him the whole time," she said.

After a few months, the doctor presented a final diagnosis. Shane was almost totally deaf. He received his first hearing aids when he was 16 months old.

Timi's instinct, however, was to treat him as much like a normal kid as possible. As young as 2 years old, he traveled with her to tournaments. And she insisted that Shane go to mainstream schools, instead of institutions for kids with hearing impairments.

The local public school system had programs for placing such students in regular classrooms, but recommended at one point that Shane use the FM Hearing Assistance device that broadcasted the teacher's voice to a personal amplifier.

Timi visited school one day when Shane was 8 or 9, and took stock of the situation.

"He's in the classroom and he's watching the teacher, and he's struggling to hear and read her lips," she said. "And there are these other kids with less of a hearing loss than Shane, and they're farting around because everything the teacher says is right there in their ears [through the FM device]. And here is Shane struggling and watching, paying attention because he can't understand everything. And I walked out and I said, 'He can't use that machine.'

"And they got real upset with me and said that he's missing all these things. And I said, 'He might be missing those things but he's learning how to function. Not everyone will have an FM system when they get older.' Right there is what taught him to utilize everything he's got to pick up and grasp things."

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