By Nancy G. Holman and Shari Coatney
of SKIL Resource Center Inc.
As we travel the road of life, sometimes we meet a person who stands out among the rest.
Shirley “Lucy” Crouch was born Shirley Crouch in 1960 in Garnett, KS, later preferring the name Lucy. She was born with intellectual disabilities and later acquired physical disabilities. Lucy came to Parsons State Hospital and Training Center (PSHTC) as a young adult and spent much of her life in institutional care.
I, Shari, met her there while serving on the hospital’s Human Rights Committee. She was fiercely and vocally unhappy at being institutionalized. As an Independent Living Center, one of SKIL Resource Center’s main services is Deinstitutionalization, and our team began working with Dr. Gary Daniels of PSHTC to get her out.
Freeing someone from a state institution is a difficult process, but with the unyielding focus of SKIL staff and Lucy’s never-give-up goal of leaving, she finally won her battle for freedom, transitioning to her own Parsons apartment to begin a new life with our help. SKIL is a family, and we became family to Lucy.
Lucy was one of the greatest self-advocates we have known, powering through her disabilities with raw grit and determination to live life on her terms. Her remarkable transition from institutionalization to independence even included becoming her own legal guardian after she petitioned the local court and successfully pled her case.
Lucy was employed at SKIL for many years, an ideal advocate of the Independent Living philosophy. In 2018, she was a public spokesperson for our annual ADA Celebration, proudly featured in local media. In 2020, she was featured in an area magazine. Once you met her, you never forgot her. We believe she was touched by God.
On June 29, 2021Lucy left us, stricken with cancer. In control of her life until the end, she chose to be buried in Garnett near her family following her Celebration of Life service in Parsons. The legacy she leaves is an indomitable determination to live life on one’s own terms and a caring heart for others.
We love you, Lucy, and our lives are richer for knowing you. May we honor your great legacy by becoming better, stronger people, by learning from mistakes like you did and by refusing to accept anything less than being in charge of our own lives, even against insurmountable odds.
If you can do it, and you did, so can we.