Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In Loving Memory of Max Starkloff

 Founding NCIL Member Max Starkloff leads the 2007 March to the Capitol, followed by 700 Advocates demanding equal rights for people with disabilities (NOW!). Photo by Sharon Farmer.

The Independent Living Movement celebrates the life and achievement of one of its greatest leaders. Our dear friend Max Starkloff passed away early Monday due to complications with the flu, however his legacy of caring and fight for civil rights has changed the face of a nation, and helped America define what independence means in the 21st century.

Max was a giant in the Movement and embodied the spirit of independence and determination. He co-founded Paraquad with his wife Colleen in 1970, and established it as one of the original 10 federally funded Independent Living Centers in the nation. Max would later go on to establish the Starkloff Disability Institute in 2003 with his wife Colleen.

He served as the first president of the National Council on Independent Living from 1983 through 1985. In 2007 on the 25th anniversary of NCIL, then NCIL President Kelly Buckland honored Max's cumulative work and contribution to the Movement by dedicating an award in his name: The Max Starkloff Lifetime Achievement Award. The award is given to recognize people for a lifetime of achievement in the Independent Living Movement.  Max has served in numerous critical positions and has received several awards for his work, including:

  • President's Distinguished Service Award - President George H. W. Bush
  • Community Leadership Award - Leadership St. Louis;
  • Commissioner's Distinguished Service Award - Rehabilitation Services
  • Administration, Washington, DC;
  • Mayor's Arch Award for leadership in disability rights - St. Louis, Mo.
  • Annual Civic Service Award - Maryville University
  • Human Rights Award - United Nations Association, St. Louis, MO;
  • Humanitarian Award - Human Development Corporation, St. Louis, MO;
  • St. Louis Award;
  • Sold on St. Louis Award;
  • Sword of Ignatius Loyola Award, St. Louis University's highest honor, St.
  • Louis, MO.
  • Missourian Award - Missouri Hall of Fame;
  • Doctor of Humane Letters - Webster University, St. Louis, MO
  • Doctor of Humane Letters, University of Missouri, St. Louis, MO.
  • Recognized by National Council on the Handicapped and St. Louis Unit of
  • NASW.
  • "Max Starkloff Lifetime Achievement Award" - National Council on Independent
  • Living, Washington, D.C.
  • St. Louis Walk of Fame, Induction, June 20, 2008

Max lives on through his important work, in our hearts, and especially through his wife Colleen and their children. He will forever be considered as part of the soul of the Movement, and will be remembered in the pages of American history as a civil rights icon.

Today NCIL celebrates our brother Max as a pioneer and soldier in America's fight for equality. Max Starkloff will be dearly missed, and will never be forgotten. Please send memories you have about Max to austin@ncil.org to be shared at his funeral services.  As we get more details about the services we will forward those on to you.

The family has requested that in lieu of flowers people make donations to the Max Starkloff Disability Institute at:

The Starkloff Disability Institute
133 S. 11th Street, Suite 500
St. Louis, MO 63102

Cards and correspondence should be addressed to:

4446 Laclede Avenue
Saint Louis, Missouri  63108

For more information about Max's life and contributions please visit the following websites:

·         Max on YouTube


  1. I love and miss Max. You were a gentle giant and somebody who I wanted to be like from the moment I met you. You taught me how to listen and channel my anger into positive change. You led a generation of younger people with disabilities like me to fight along your side and draw our strength from you. Humility, generosity and self-deprecation were your tools. Thank you, thank you, thank you El Jeffe! Your indelible spirit will continue to guide us and Colleen, who was your pillar of strength, in this battle will be here with us. Take your rest you mighty warrior.
    Charlie and family

  2. Max was a gentleman, a visionary, a mentor, and a friend. Max and Colleen showed me that it was not only possible for a quad to be married and to have a family; it was life-sustaining. I will miss his quick smile and sharp with. RIP, Max.


    Tony Young, Kathy Cameron, & Cameron Young

  3. Max was a friend of mine and I will always remember his dedication to our movement. I was fortunate to serve as his Vice President in NCIL and I consider him one of the true champions of Independent Living.

    Max's quiet, caring demeanor overshadowed his passion for what he felt saved his life and gave change and improvement to the lives of others beyond measure.

    Max we will all miss you but know that your work lives on through Colleen and the work of the Institute.

    John Chappell

  4. Max was always larger than life. His desire was to make the world a better place for others with disabilities. His vision, his passion and dogged advocacy helped propel the IL movement from a small group of disorganized advocates into a national organization that helped set the course for the advancement of disability policies that would eventually prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities. Max we love you and miss you. Colleen, we love you and our prayers and thoughts are with you during this time.

  5. Max lit up a path of possibility for us all as he blazed the path to equality for all human beings. His leadership made everyone around him stronger as individuals and collectively as a people. His fierce determination resided within a calm exterior that allowed everyone to embrace and contribute to the growth of the Independent Living movement. We were honored to travel with him as NCIL was created and will continue to honor Max and the Starkloff family by renewing our committment to the IL ideals of equality and opportunity for all as the journey continues. Thank you Max and Colleen.

  6. Max made great contributions to Independent Living and to disability rights. The world is a better place because of his efforts - and will continue to be through the initiatives he started. He will be greatly missed.

    Ann McDaniel
    West Virginia SILC

  7. Max Starkloff was a leader and mentor for ALL people with disabilities. It was because of the Starkloff's work that I became aware of how to advocate for people with disabilities. Perhaps even more importantly, the rallies and other activities organized by Paraquad inspired me to raise my voice for people suffering from severe and persistent mental illness. My best wishes to Colleen and their children; may they find peace in the fact that Max’s work brought so many positive changes for ALL people with disabilities. Those of us that Max has inspired will continue to work in our communities for months, years, and decades to come.

    Jacqueline A. Lukitsch
    Executive Director
    NAMI St. Louis

  8. I met Max in 1984 at my first NCIL conference, he was a strong leader of the IL movement and so focused in the mission of equal rights for all.
    Max is one of the great leaders of the disability rights movement and we will all miss his mentoring and support for us, that keeps us together in this battle for our civil rights. My prayers and wishes go out the Colleen and the Starkloff family during this time of sadness.

    Paul Spooner

  9. My thoughts and prayers are with the Starkloff family.

    Winter Cox
    Little Rock, AR

  10. Max was the love of my life, my best friend, my mentor, my leader, my confidant, my role model. These notes are so uplifting and I deeply appreciate them very much. I remain with all of you as we press forward to continue the Mission--full equality and independence for ALL people with disabilities. He lives on in us! I love you all!

    Colleen Starkloff

  11. I the war zone of fighting access barriers, Max was a unique 5 star general, whose legacy will be lasting and crystal clear. Hopefully he will be emulated by many, but never replaced. As Senator Ted Kennedy said “The work continues, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die."

    We can say clearly, loudly and joyfully that the world is a better place for Max having lived in it. And after all is said and done, what nobler praise can anyone desire? Max leaves a legacy to be proud of and celebrate!
    To Coleen and family our thoughts are with you. Love, comfort and hugs...

  12. Max understood two of the most important characteristics of a successful human rights effort - that a rebellion must have vision to be constructive and that there is tremendous power in gentleness as well as militancy. He was an extraordinary teacher, mentor, and friend for so many of us. We shall miss your presence, Max, but your spirit will never leave us.

  13. In his words, Max Starkloff Paraquad founder crusaded for disabled shares his story with the community on "It's Our Story: National Media and History Initiative" share your thoughts with us on knowing him... will miss you dearly Max. http://www.youtube.com/user/ItsOurStoryProject#p/c/18/44gaW9wV_tQ

    Victor Pineda

  14. Dearest Colleen,
    You and Max were the mentors, teachers, and guides that Roland and I both looked to back in our early days in the movement! Always, you have led by example, both in militant strategy and gentle conviction! I can hardly believe Max is gone... because he really never will for me, nor for many, many others. You both will always lead us on by your example, your lives and your love!
    Thank you, Max!
    Love you, Colleen! And my love to your family and all who grieve for our friend.

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