Donny

Sang this morning at the funeral for Donny, part of the Larson family with whom I have long been friends.

Donny was born with Down's Syndrome. As was traditional back in the 1940s, he was institutionalized for many years. Then he went back to live with his family. His sister Phyllis and brother Jim took him in over thirty years ago. He was an integral part of their very bustling household, which not only included a raft of kids, but on most days, every neighbor kid as well.

After the funeral, the church basement was so full of people they had to set up an extra table. Donny's nephew and my friend Al gave a very moving tribute to Donny.

I think it was a tribute to the care Donny received from his family as well as from the Fertile Hilton that he lived to age 73, far longer than most who are born with Downs.

Al briefly mentioned Donny's experience in an institution. They fed the residents beans every day and kept them in single rooms without contact with other residents. I'll bet we don't want to know how they were treated.

If there is one area where there is no such thing as the good old days, it is in the realm of care for the mentally handicapped. The thrust of Al's message was that Donny had to be out in society to perform his mission in life, which was to spread smiles, hugs and happiness to all he met.