Suzanne E. Fitts Valters died on Sun. Oct. 19 in Sacramento, CA. A native of Framingham, MA, she was a woman of great intellect, education and achievement. She wanted most to be remembered as a gutsy woman, a survivor, and a great mother. A graduate of Boston University, with a PhD. from Columbia University in International Relations, she lived in New York City for over 30 years, working as a guide at the United Nations, where she met and married Erik Nikolous Valters of Riga-Hagensberg, Latvia and Princeton class of 1953. Erik died in 1996.
For the past 23 years, she lived with Rheumatoid Arthritis. During that period, however,she returned to college, earning a Master's Degree in Social Work from NYU, counseling people with disabilities. Then in 1997, she moved to Sacramento to be near her daughter. She became the legislative chair of Californians for Disability Rights, the vice chair of the California Coalition on Crime Against People with Disabilities, and was instrumental in drafting and supporting legislation to benefit people with disabilities. She was also a member of CALCASA. She was a docent at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, and served as an advisor to make the museum accessible.
She is survived by her daughter, Christine Valters-Paintner of Seattle, Wash., a sister, Nancy Fitts-Neilson of East Boothbay, Maine, and a brother, Dr. Frederick B. Fitts, Jr. of Twin Falls, Idaho.Suzanne was the daughter of the late Frederick B. and Faith Fitts of Framingham.
Advocate for disabled honored posthumously
OCEANSIDE The city's Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Award was presented posthumously yesterday to the late Rev. Clyde "Pete" Shideler, longtime advocate for the disabled.
Mayor Terry Johnson announced the award yesterday at the annual Martin LutherKing Jr. celebration sponsored by the North County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
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By Lola Sherman
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER January 18, 2004
OCEANSIDE The city's Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Award was presented posthumously yesterday to the late Rev. Clyde "Pete" Shideler, longtime advocate for the disabled. Mayor Terry Johnson announced the award yesterday at the annual Martin Luther King Jr.celebration sponsored by the North County Branch of the National Association forthe Advancement of Colored People. The city's Community Relations Commission designates the award recipients. Shideler, who died Aug. 7 at the age of 68, was cited for recognizing the challenges facing people with disabilities. His widow, Loretta, accepted the award. "We were astounded" to learn of the honor, she said Friday. "I did not realize the extent of all the outpouring" of good will from people Pete Shideler had touched. She said that her son, Jon, who nominated his father, had put on the application that "no one is really gone until the last person he touched is gone." Pete Shideler, she said, was a believer inthe nonviolent approach advocated by the late Mahatma Gandhi and had inscribed this motto on his stationery letterhead: "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." Legally blind, Shideler was chairman of the San Diego chapter of ADAPT, an advocacy group for the disabled, and director of CE Disabled Services. A 26-year resident of Oceanside, he ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2000, saying he wanted to champion individual residents over big business and politics. His successes over the years included installation of curb cuts at city intersections to accommodate wheelchairs and talking stoplights to warn the blind. This is the 15th year of the award, given to a resident of Oceanside or adjacent Camp Pendleton, without regard to race or ethnicity, who exemplifies the philosophy and ideals of King, the late civil-rights leader. Photos of award recipients hang in the community rooms in the Civic Center.
WASHINGTON, D.C. February, 26, 2003 – Rev. Harold H. Wilke, a pioneering religious leader, disability advocate, and founding Board Member of the National Organization on Disability (N.O.D.), died yesterday in Claremont, California. He was 88 years old.
A member of the U.S. Council for the Year of Disabled Persons and a Board Member of both N.O.D. and its international arm, the World Committee on Disability, Dr. Wilke was noted for his unique role delivering the blessing at the White House signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990. Following the signing, President George H.W. Bush passed the signing pen to Rev. Wilke, who accepted it with his foot, because he was born without arms.
Rev. Wilke focused on his own abilities, rather than his disability. He had a distinguished career in four areas of service: the Church, rehabilitation medicine, teaching and government. Ordained as a minister of the United Church of Christ, Dr. Wilke served on the faculty at Union Theological Seminary in New York and directed The Healing Community, which promotes awareness about access to a life of faith. He published numerous books and articles, including "Creating the Caring Congregation," for congregations moving to integrate persons with disabilities into the faith community.
"Harold was the inspiration for our Religion and Disability Program," said Ginny Thornburgh, Director of that program at N.O.D. since 1989. "His enthusiasm, self-acceptance, grit and twinkle allowed him to be a role model and a superb leader. He challenged all, with and without disabilities, to heal the divisions among God's children. Religious communities responded to his proclamation that people with disabilities are welcome and needed in the House of God."
The National Organization on Disability, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2002, promotes the full and equal participation and contribution of America's 54 million men, women and children with disabilities in all aspects of life. For more information about N.O.D.'s Religion and Disability Program, visit www.nod.org/.