Well this is embarassing but given the high degree of pisstration running through this thread it's obvious that a lot of folks either need a) a beer, or b) a good laugh. Since "passing a cold-one" is a tough proposition in the virtual world, it looks like a good laugh is our only option and it might as well be at my expense.
I just spent another 2 hours reading every post I could find looking for the solution to this problem. I had run the same rabbit trail a couple months ago and just couldn't remember the outcome of that pursuit although it's obvious to me that the Visual functionality isn't working at the moment. Then it hit me.
After spending a couple hours solution-searching during my first go-round, I hopped on over to my browser's forum to see if just by chance someone had tried to discover the truth via that route. That, indeed, is where I found my answer, the first time! It was only after a word or two read in some WP forum post rang some distant bell in my poor head did I recall what I had found.
Can I have my two hours back? I've begun a new habit today. Once I solve a problem I'll be posting it to this forum so when I forget the fix I can look myself up. <sigh> (Don't tell me you haven't done it before!!)
If you are using the Opera Browser, the FCKEditor (which IS the toolbar panel full of icons which make up the toolbar that won't appear for everybody in the Visual mode) is NOT COMPATIBLE with any version of Opera. In the Opera forum I found a single thread informing me of this and this link to the FCKEditor site where work is in progress to close the gap in this incompatibility. I hope.
So in the meantime, if I have to have have the Visual mode, I use FireFox. For everything else, Opera is simply the best browser on the planet. Period.
Amen and Hallelujah!