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  • Denny tells a story about a friend he once knew who went from being taken from his home, thought of as a burden to society, to being seen as a neighbor, friend, and contributing member of society...

    "I had a friend named Don and he lived in sayler park until he was about 30 and then some physicians said that he should live in the state institution…because it would be better for him.

    Well it sort of uprooted him.

    Up until that time, he was sort of a guy around who loved to go fishing and ride the Anderson ferry, knew a lot of people. I think he brought a lot of happiness to people. (Then, sometime in the 1960s), he was moved against his will into a state institution where a lot of bad things happened to him.

    So I met him 30 years later when he was about 60, and he was living in ICFMR -- “Intermediate Care Facility for the Mentally Retarded" (and he hated it)... It’s funded as a nursing home and there’s about 115 people living there in little cottages. (Don was moved to this place in the 80s)…

    [Uprooted people from one place, to the next…]

    So anyway he hated that. Some mutual friends introduced Don and I. And, we went on a journey together so that he could try… he wanted to go back to Gracely Drive (

    He didn’t have a lot of language but he would say, “I belong, Gracely Drive.”

    Eventually we helped Don find some of his old neighbors on Gracely Drive… Bill and his wife who lived next door, they remembered Don as a young man and they were very happy to see him. So he ended up leaving the institution and moving back to Gracely Drive.

    [He got connected to a lot of other people who really appreciated him]

    Unfortunately for him, he was by this time 62 and in poor health. He learned a lot of bad habits in institutions. He used to smoke cigarettes up his nose and he did a lot of kind of “eccentric” things. He ended up living on Gracely Drive and really getting connected to his community again. And that was pretty cool. But he only lived about 9 months and then he had a heart attack.

    Passed away.

    But I think even though it was short, he did get to…… You know, he went from somebody who was really seen as a problem, with behavior problems and kind of abhorrent behavior, to someone who was delighted to be where he belonged.

    His mantra was “I want my own key.” We had a picture of him with his own key entering his apartment on Gracely Drive. He was very excited about that.

    But he was kind of an irascible old coot too…But he had every reason to be. He was lovable in his way. His gift was that many of us felt we’d like to go the extra mile, we'd put ourselves in situations that we were totally uncomfortable in…. We felt like this was so important to Don, it was worth it. That was his gift to us. He gave us courage and an opportunity to be brave. And give something to the community that was good.

    So. I always think, Don taught me a lot...
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