Sudduth an early self-advocate
Longtime disability rights advocate J.R. Sudduth is remembered as someone who was tireless in challenging the social services system that had held him and others back. Sudduth died March 1 while in a Minneapolis nursing home.
Sudduth had battled health issues for several weeks. “He’d fought a good fight against his illness,” said his sister Esther Moore.
A memorial service is 11 a.m. Saturday, March 31 at Zion Baptist Church, 621 Elwood, Minneapolis. A luncheon will follow the service. Family members would like to meet Sudduth’s friends and colleagues in the self-advocacy movement. Memorials can be directed to Bethany Residence, 2309 Hayes St. NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418.
Born in Alabama, Sudduth had rubella as a small child. He was left with cerebral palsy and a learning disability. His family moved to Minneapolis when he was young. Sudduth fought against being placed in special education and in a sheltered workshop. He balked at being labeled and being forced to do piecework for little money. He wanted dignity and equal rights.
His longtime friend Mel Duncan wrote of Sudduth, “His experience as an African American man had given him a keen understanding of discrimination. He refused to be treated like a child and would not be herded into piecework jobs. If he was going to work, he wanted decent pay. He was ‘social worked’ and treated for years. He walked away from the social service system. He wanted to work for change.”
Sudduth instead began working with Arc, but wanted to do more. He helped found Advocating Change Together (ACT) in the late 1970s. He was hired as an organizer and worked on a number of issues at the capitol. He could forcefully tell a story or make a point, and get a message across to state lawmakers.
Sudduth is survived by sisters Esther Moore and Linda Kemp, brothers Steve and Lester, and many nieces and nephews.
Walz part of Bill Sackter’s story
Another chapter in Bill Sackter’s story has ended.
Tom Walz, a longtime professor and former director of the University of Iowa School of Social Work, died in February. He was 84 and lived in the Iowa City area.
“He had the courage to start a lot of things before people recognized they were good ideas, and then once he got things started, people saw the wisdom in what he started and then took it over — then he was onto something else,” Mercedes Bern-Klug, director of the Aging & Longevity Studies Program at the School of Social Work, told the Press-Citizen newspaper.
Walz may best be known for his involvement with Sackter, a Minnesotan with developmental disabilities. In the 1970s Walz hired Barry Morrow to work at the UI School of Social Work. Morrow brought Sackter, who had spent 44 years in an institution, along. Walz set Sackter up with a coffee cart job at the university. Sackter’s story is one of what can happen when a person with disabilities is integrated into the community. His story became a made-of-television movie in 1981, starring Mickey Rooney in an Emmy-winning performance.
Sackter died in 1983 but his legacy continue, as the university’s coffee shop now employs a dozen people with disabilities. After Walz retired in 2001, he created a second shop, Uptown Bill’s Coffee House. Uptown Bill’s hires people with disabilities and has spun off other businesses. The coffee house is overseen by the Extend the Dream Foundation.
Walz also started the Disability Enterprise Foundation, which runs the Iowa Disability Creative Works Galley.He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Lisa, and their six children.
Groos helped implement law
John Groos is remembered as a pioneer in Minnesota special education. Groos, 91, died in late January. He lived in Minneapolis.
He came to Minnesota in 1961 to lead state efforts to get special education programs in place.
The work took several years. As the state’s director of special education, Groos was responsible for implementing the 1957 Special Education Law that required education services be provided for children and youths with disabilities. That was a major change from the decades of children either going to state schools, living in state institutions or staying home. Local school districts were able to opt out of providing services. A district needed at least five students with disabilities before services could be provided.
Groos’ work to implement the 1957 law involved travels statewide. He met with school superintendents and helped set up special education programs. Colleagues remember his calming manner in the face of school district leaders with budget and staffing concerns. He also worked with colleges and universities to promote special education teaching as a career and to promote teacher training.
Family members said Groos taught them to listen to voices that aren’t in the mainstream, whether it was from blind or deaf students, or those who were dyslexic or disenfranchised. He was also an early advocate for affirmative action. He stepped down as state director of special education in 1980.
Groos is survived by his wife, Virginia, four children and 11 grandchildren. Services have been held.
Lewis an advocate for special education
James F. Lewis was a longtime faculty member at St. Cloud State University, and a champion for people with disabilities. Lewis, 74, died in February.
The Nebraska native lost an arm at age five, in a farm accident. His family encouraged him
to succeed, so he took up the trumpet and was a high school and college track athlete. After
earning advanced degrees in special education and psychology, Lewis and his family moved to St. Cloud in 1969. He taught at St. Cloud State for 32 years, retiring in 2001.
Lewis had a private assessment practice providing testing services for Social Security disability, mental health, vocational rehabilitation and government agencies, which he operated through 2015. He advocated for people with disabilities. He was a board member for ADAM (Attention Deficit Awareness Lewis and his wife Ruth endowed education scholarships for students in the fields of science and special education at the University of Nebraska. They enjoyed meeting the scholarship recipients annually in Lincoln.
He and his family enjoyed travel, the arts, gardening, skiing, hunting, fishing and fossil hunting. Lewis is survived by his wife, a son and daughter and their families, and many other relatives. Services have been held.
Throndrud helped start group home
Gloria Lorrane Fauskee Throndrud is remembered for her work in establishing one of Greater Minnesota’s early group homes and her long career as a special education teacher. Throndrud died in late January. She was 91 and lived in Ortonville.
Throndrud grew up with second-generation Norwegian immigrant parents, in the Brooten area. She spoke Norwegian at home and at a one-room schoolhouse before going to Brooten High School, where she was the first homecoming queen. She then went to St. Cloud Teachers College, graduating in 1946. She married Elwood Throndrud in 1949 and they moved to Ortonville where they raised four children. One child, David, had intellectual disabilities. He died more than a decade ago.
Throndrud taught special education and helped establish Monarch Heights, a group home for the developmentally disabled in Ortonville. She was also involved with Special Olympics.
She is survived by her three daughters and their families, a brother and a sister. Services have been held. Memorials are suggested to the Alzheimer’s Association.