Max Starkloff

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.

David B. Gray obituary
Provided by Washington University

David Gray, a scientist who relentlessly championed the right of people with disabilities to live independent, satisfying lives, has died.

Mr. Gray, a professor of neurology and occupational therapy at Washington University School of Medicine, wanted much more for others than had been available to him after he fell and broke his neck during the summer of 1976. It left him a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down.

(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.

Provided by Missouri History Museum

It takes a great character to make a good story. That’s what I was once told.

But what makes a great character?

My muses have always told me to find someone who is both extraordinary and ordinary.

Extraordinary in that the individual has lived a life like no one else. Fascinating.

Ordinary in that the individual is imperfect, just like us. He or she shares the same foibles and fears, hopes and aspirations that we have. We can see ourselves in that person. Compelling.

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. 

Today's show was a discussion about the life and legacy of Paraquad founder Max Starkloff and his many contributions to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. For more on Starkloff, see our previous story about his memorial.

We heard from some of these voices during the show, but here are some more local and national notables sharing their stories about Starkloff:

(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.

Max Starkloff with his daughter, Emily
File photo | Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Funeral services for disability rights pioneer Max Starkloff have been set.

  • Funeral arrangements are pending for Max Starkloff, a longtime advocate for the disabled in the St. Louis area. Friends told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he had recently developed the flu. Starkloff was a quadriplegic since age 21, when he was injured in an automobile accident. He founded Paraquad Inc. and led crusades that convinced St. Louis to install wheelchair temps on sidewalks and lifts on buses.