The Neuman family holds a special place in the hearts of St. Louis Center staff and residents. Together, Norm and Kathi have been major supporters and contributors to the Center for more than 35 years. This is their heartwarming story of perseverance.
Every Child is Special and Has Their Own Needs
Norm and Kathi Neuman met in high school. They married in 1969 in Levittown, Pennsylvania, and soon welcomed their daughter, Christine. The family grew when she was joined by a little brother, Joe, who changed Norm and Kathi’s world.
“When you have a child born with a disability, you really don’t know what the future holds. Downs Syndrome was one of the more prevalent disabilities at the time. It was a little frightening. We were actually encouraged to have Joe institutionalized, but Norm and I were committed to helping Joe live a normal life,” said Kathi.
“God knew that Joe would need loving care and life-long support. Norm and I were his chosen parents, and we thank God for giving us Joe, who is a very special gift.”
Taking A Stand for Equal Rights
Kathi dedicated herself to learning more about Down Syndrome and its impact on families it affects. She wanted to better understand her son’s needs in order to support him. She also strived to help others understand and accept everyone affected by intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).
“I joined the local ARC in Bucks County, PA in 1971 right after Joe was born. When he reached school age, I joined with other parents to start a grassroots effort travelling to Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania State Capital, to help support and implement Federal bill 94-142 that guaranteed education for students with special needs,” Kathi said. “We were parents who demanded that our children be allowed to have the same educational opportunities as all other children.”
When Norm was promoted to Vice President of Comshare in 1982, they moved to Michigan to be near the headquarters in Ann Arbor. Joe was enrolled as a student in a self-contained classroom at Abbott Elementary School. Shortly after enrolling, Kathi found out that the school district’s policies regarding equal education for children with I/DD needed significant improvements. She, along with a number of parents, initiated contact with the Michigan state legislature, thus starting her journey to protect the civil rights of children in Michigan with special needs.
Kathi and Norm met Fr. Enzo Addari at a Special Olympics event being held at Eastern Michigan University in 1984. They were immediately drawn to the Servants of Charity priests’ mission and became involved at St. Louis Center.
For more than 35 years they have both been active members of the Center’s Community Advisory Council, Endowment Fund, Legacy Campaign, and numerous fundraising events; working tirelessly to help support St. Louis Center, the residents, and the Servants of Charity.
After Norm retired over twenty years ago, he and Kathi decided that they would focus their retirement years on helping children and adults with I/DD. Both Norm and Kathi have been very involved in helping St. Louis Center grow into the wonderful, intentional community it is today.
Joe and the Neumans have Persevered
Joe is now fifty-two years old and presently lives with Norm and Kathi at their home in Chelsea MI. Before the Covid pandemic, Joe lived in an apartment in Ann Arbor, MI for almost 20 years with another man with Downs Syndrome. He spends most of his time helping Kathi around the house in Chelsea or at their place in Gaylord, MI. He loves to perform daily chores including running the vacuum cleaner, and emptying the dishwasher. Joe loves to play golf with his dad in the summer and to drive a snowmobile in the winter. He is great fun to be around, and he loves to socialize.
Joe requires a great deal of on-going life-skills support, as do most adults with I/DD. Joe is in good health, but it is common for many of his older peers (55 to 65 years old) to experience a quickening decline in health. Many have lost their parents who were their lifeline. This leaves many of them without the life-skills support they had throughout their lives.
Fortunately for Joe, there are plans in place to take care of him well after his parents are gone. Unfortunately, that is not the case for the majority of adults with I/DD. Many loving and caring parents are not financially able to provide long-term care for their adult children after they are gone. The necessary planning was never done by the parents or by the government. Historically adults with I/DD passed away well before their parents. As a result, many parents thought that they would outlive their child. However, with much better health care readily available and the children living more active lives, they are now outliving their parents.
These facts have compelled Norm and Kathi to work tirelessly to spread the word to other families about St. Louis Center whose mission is to provide aging adults with I/DD life-long support in a residential community that is full of love and compassion. Because of the Neumans’ perseverance and dedication to Joe, they’ve made a lasting impact on the residents of the Center. We all thank them greatly for all they’ve done.
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