Colleen Kelly Starkloff

Starkloff Disability Institute

It has been 25 years since the historic Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted by the U.S. Congress and St. Louis will join cities across the country in commemorating its passage. 

A painting by disability rights activist Max Starkloff.
Starkloff Disability Institute

Max Starkloff was known for his work as a disability rights activist. But he also was a painter.

Later this month, several of Starkloff's paintings will be displayed at the Bruno David Gallery. Starkloff died in 2010.

(Courtesy: Missouri History Museum)

Today’s edition of StoryCorps, which aired during “Morning Edition,” was a remembrance of Max Starkloff, a pioneer in the disability rights movement who was quadriplegic. He died in 2010.

The StoryCorps conversation featured Starkloff’s wife, Colleen Starkloff, and their daughter, Meaghan Starkloff Breitenstein.

Max Starkloff
Courtesy of the Missouri History Museum

In 1959, at age 21, Max Starkloff broke his neck in a car accident, becoming a quadriplegic.

“I think most people see disability as the worst thing that could ever happen to you and that it’s the end of your life,” said Colleen Starkloff, his widow and co-director of the Starkloff Disability Institute. “When I met Max, I realized it was the beginning of life.”

Max Starkloff, who died in 2010, became an advocate for people with disabilities.

For Colleen Starkloff and her husband Max, advocating for people with disabilities has always been about helping them gain independence. When they founded Paraquad in St. Louis 45 years ago, their goal was to enable people with disabilities to live independently.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon We baby boomers have breathed the sweet air of invincibility so long that when something goes wrong with our finances or our family relations or our bodies we are shocked, shocked, to realize that rather than invincible, we are, as were all generations before us, quite vulnerable. So what should we, the children of the greatest generation, be doing?

Colleen Kelly Starkloff has been on the forefront of the disability rights movement ever since she met her late husband, Max Starkloff, in the nursing home where he was confined due to a disabling car accident. Still a young man, Max was determined to live independently and help others in his situation do the same. 

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

The sanctuary at St. Francis Xavier Church on the Saint Louis University campus was filled today with people who had gathered for one purpose - to remember the life of Max Starkloff.

Such a crowd, said former Washington University chancellor William Danforth, would have been unheard of in 1959, when an automobile accident left Starkloff a paraplegic and living in a nursing home at the age of 21.