January 16, 2012 2:15 PM

Cal Thomas on brother w/Down syndrome

calthomas.jpgI had no idea Cal Thomas had a brother with Down syndrome - at least not until Susan sent me this article last week:

My Brother's Life: Very Valuable Despite Down Syndrome

by Cal Thomas | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 1/9/12 11:14 AM

How does one measure whether a life was a success, or a failure?

Some would measure it by recognition, that is, how many knew the person's name. For others, the measure of a successful life would be the amount of wealth accumulated, or possessions held. Still others would say a life was successful if the person made a major contribution to society -- in medicine, sports, politics, or the arts.

By that standard my brother, Marshall Stephen Thomas, who died January 5, was a failure. If, however, your standard for a successful life is how that life positively touched others, then my brother's life was a resounding success.

Shortly after he was born in 1950, Marshall was diagnosed with Down syndrome. Some in the medical community referred to the intellectually disabled as "retarded" back then, long before the word became a common schoolyard epithet. His doctors told our parents he would never amount to anything and advised them to place him in an institution. Back then, this was advice too often taken by parents who were so embarrassed about having a disabled child that they often refused to take them out in public.

Our parents wanted none of that. In the '50s, many institutions were snake pits where inhumanities were often tolerated and people were warehoused until they died, often in deplorable conditions. While they weren't wealthy, they were committed to seeing that Marshall had the best possible care, no matter how long he lived. Because of their dedication and thanks to the Kennedy family and their commitment to the rights, causes and issues related to the mentally and physically challenged, Marshall had a longer and better quality of life than might have been expected. He outlived his life expectancy by nearly 40 years. He lived his life dancing and singing and listening to music he loved.

Read more at LifeNews.


Posted in Down syndrome | Permalink


This was a moving article. However, I find it interesting that he mentions the Kennedys. While they were wonderful in their support of the disabled for many years, they did have their daughter lobotomized and institutionalized. I always thought that was a bit extreme.
my step mother married a widower (long before she became my step mother) who had 'put his wife away' due to schizophrenia. his 2 daughters-twins-later developed the same disease around college age. My step mother eventually had them put in an institution nearby. Occasionally they were allowed to visit us. I found them a bit strange but more child-like (I was about 11 years old at the time). I wish they could have been with us more-I think I would have learned to be more accepting at an earlier age of disabilities.
My father's mother had bone cancer in her jaw. in those days (50's) there was not much you could do. They removed her lower jaw- which left her radically disfigured. But I never noticed. She was my much loved Grandma Putman who communicated with us with one of those "magic slate" toys. It was fun reading her messages to us.

Posted by: Mary Eckstein | January 17, 2012 7:43 AM

I just made the devastating realization that a reason why we don't see many older people with Down's is because they were institutionalized and did not thrive. Obviously doctors know a lot more now than they did then, so these children's physical problems are addressed now.

I wonder what things would be different today if these children had been treated like children.

Posted by: Sandra | January 17, 2012 10:41 AM

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