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Remembering The “Revolutionary” Max Starkloff

January 6, 2011 Accessibility, History/Preservation 1 Comment
ABOVE: a large crowd of people filled the ballrooms at the SLU Busch Student Center for Max Starkloff's visitation
ABOVE: a large crowd of people filled the ballrooms at the SLU Busch Student Center for Max Starkloff's visitation

On Tuesday I attended the visitation for Max Starkloff.

Max Starkloff lived in a nursing home on a hill outside St. Louis from the time he was 26 until he turned 38. The day after he moved out, he did something he knew he couldn’t do and stay in a nursing home: He got married.  (NPR – recommended)

I forgot that my friend & Tower Grove East resident, Christian Saller, is the nephew of Starkloff. The following were his remarks at the funeral Mass:

It’s impossible to summarize anyone you love in 2 or 3 minutes. In the case of my Uncle Max, it is especially difficult to adequately express my admiration for his character and extraordinary understanding.

He recently objected to being characterized as a “super hero”, but it’s difficult to avoid the term when speaking of a man whose dedication and tenacity were heroic.

From the time I was a small child, I always saw my Uncle Max as a person with a strength and dignity all his own. Like other truly strong people, he was kind and generously shared his spirit. When I looked at his paintings I saw him: bold, alive, a formidable force.

He has also been referred to as an activist, but this is as insufficient as any other label. I think a better term for his life and legacy is revolutionary. Activists may add a lot to a discussion, but revolutionaries start the conversation and exert fundamental change. My Uncle Max’s cultural revolution continues.

His work and advocacy were not a bid for accommodation or sympathy, but for recognition that a society that limits opportunity and justice for any of its members ultimately denies itself the full measure of its own potential. He made people understand that. Like other transformational leaders, he made his life a lasting gift we can never imagine not having.

I never knew he spent 12 years in a nursing home before he turned 38 years old!  It was the times, thankfully they have changed.  Instead of spending the next 35 years there he had a wife, three kids, and a career – a normal life basically.

Something like 80% of those who are disabled were not born disabled.  Something happened.  For Max Starkloff it was an accident at age 21 when he crashed his Austin Healey.  Each of you will know someone in your lifetime that will become disabled. Everyday I’m grateful for the work of Max & Colleen Starkloff.

Thank you Christian for sharing your remarks.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Tom Shrout says:

    Max was a pioneer in making Metro accessible to the disabled. St. Louis was the first to have chair lifts on buses. I grew to appreciate the work of Max and Colleen when visiting London six years ago for the first time with my roller bag. No curb cuts no ramps. Steps everywhere. Major “gaps” to access the tube. Getting around with a bag was a chore. Everyone has benefited from their work on making our society accessible to all.


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