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Remembering Pat

pat figueroa in a fleece jacket and baseball cap

The following are excerpts of comments from family, friends and colleagues on the passing of Patricio “Pat” Figueroa.

Kathi Wolfe: As a writer for Independence Today, I worked with Pat from 2006 to 2012. I considered Pat to be both a boss (an editor) and a friend. Over the years, our telephone talks were all over the map. No matter what subject or story idea I’d bring up – from Deaf culture to actors with disabilities to disabled Iraq War vets to beauty queens with disabilities – Pat knew something about it. Inevitably, he’d have the goods on everyone I wanted to interview before I did, and his memory of disability history seemed to stretch back before time. Few editors are as open as Pat was to story ideas on a wide range of topics. Nothing fazed or shocked him. He was game for most any idea I pitched. He only cared that the story be good – that it be accurate, well-written and of value to folks with disabilities.

Paul Feuerstein: He has been a great asset to the disabled community. I worked closely with Pat as CIDNY was in formation and the precursor of Barrier Free Living, Project Outward Bound, was just getting started. We collaborated to begin the New York City Coalition on Housing for People with Disabilities, which was instrumental in the passage of local law 58, at the time the most progressive building code for access for people with disabilities.

Amy Halloran: I met Pat through a children’s writing group, and he encouraged me in all of my writing -- for kids, adults, fiction and nonfiction. After my father had strokes, Pat encouraged me to write essays about my experience for Independence Today. Without his asking, it would have taken me longer to write about my feelings, and I might never have written about related topics. He was a great editor, allowing me the freedom to explore ideas that interested me, giving me suggestions of people to interview when my ideas ran dry. Thanks to Pat, I have a better sense of myself as a writer (and) of the complexities of brain injury, too. I am so grateful that he gave me his encouragement and a space to dive into realms I might not have ever encountered.

Jim Ford: I will miss you Pat. I remember blocking streets In Manhattan and facing off against Nixon’s minions after his veto of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Remember how they stacked up furniture to block the wheelchairs in their luxury hotel? Your wisdom and warmth will be remembered with love.

Opal Shelton-Colvin: Pat was a good man and a loyal friend. He was fair and honest. He was also amazingly funny without making an effort at it. It was an honor to write for him and get to know him as a true gentleman and a friend. He will be greatly missed. Pat was a good man and a loyal friend. He was fair and honest. He was also amazingly funny without making an effort at it. It was an honor to write for him and get to know him as a true gentleman and a friend. He will be greatly missed. Pat Figueroa was a unique human being. He exemplified the best qualities of the Gospel story of the Good Samaritan. His compassionate spirit propelled others to care for the less fortunate among us. Because of his achievements, the world is a better place to live in. His memory will live a long time.

Brenda Brown-Grooms: Pat was a rare being. He cared, even when he didn’t have to, even when it would have been easier for him not to. Such individuals are probably what keep the rest of us breathing.

Kathleen Steele Pautler: I will always remember meeting Pat for the first time in Albany at the first statewide IL conference that I attended. He was leading a conference on home care using the model of what is now offered throughout the state that he was instrumental in leading in NYC. After that, I grew to know & respect him not only as a great leader in the disability rights movement but also as a friend, a wonderful husband & father. Pat, I know that you are resting in peace in heaven with the Lord. You are now being rewarded for all of your actions for equality for All!

Peter S. Kahrmann: He was unique, wonderfully so. Yes, he was a singular example that you did not have to stand up to stand tall in life. Yes, he was breathtakingly courageous when it came to the struggle for equal rights -- not just for people with disabilities, but for all people. But then too, there was this: He was deeply, deeply kind. I loved the person he was and did not know him long enough. But then I suspect that anyone who knew him could say the same thing, “I didn’t know him long enough.”

Donna Bader: My dear brother-in-law who had a great sense of humor and never lost his wit. There were so many things you were involved in politically and personally and you obviously made a positive difference in many people’s lives. You accomplished so much, and I’m proud to have known you. You have been part of our family for so many years and I will miss you. I love you.

Brad Williams: I remember attending the 10th anniversary of the ADA gala with Pat and Denise in D.C. and having them be good enough to let me hang out with them as a fellow New Yorker. The event was held at the vice president’s residence (Naval Observatory) and hosted by Al and Tipper Gore. I remember as an emerging leader in IL, I was impressed at how cool and natural Pat seemed at networking. Everyone seemed to know him, and he had no problem going at his own pace, engaging in various political discussions, then moving on. I know I felt better with their support at that event. Hopefully, I have learned some things from Pat that I can share with others in the future regarding leadership. Words cannot describe such a loss. However, good memories such as these remain.

Greg Gardiner: I had the pleasure of working with Pat at the NYS Office for the Aging. He was an amazing and inspiring man who will be greatly missed by so many!

Terry Moakley: Pat Figueroa was a true pioneer of this country’s disability rights advocacy efforts. A few days ago, I attended a viewing of the documentary film “America ’73” at the Independence Care System office in Manhattan. It was a MacNeil-Lehrer production that was aired on PBS. There on film was a younger Pat Figueroa, along with Judy Heumann, Anna Fay, Bobbi Linn and other pioneers with disabilities strategizing about the need for better federal government accessibility laws. They were planning a sit-in at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare offices, which eventually led to the adoption of Section 504 of the 1973 federal Rehabilitation Act. That was a huge victory for Americans with disabilities, and it paved the way for future access laws on all government levels across this nation. Pat’s legacy lives on for folks with disabilities every day.

Helen Hines: I met Pat years ago when we both worked for the CQC (the Commission on Quality Care for the Mentally Ill) and always admired and appreciated his helpful and optimistic spirit. Hearing his name always made me smile with affection; it still will but also now with sadness.

Deborah Kendrick: My first awareness of Pat Figueroa was in messages he posted to a list of media professionals concerned with disability rights issues. His messages were always in uppercase letters (somewhat strange to read in Braille because each word is preceded by a double dot six.) When I finally had occasion to write back to him was when he announced his launch of Independence Today. He surprised me by replying immediately with warmth and regard, telling me, as he would often in the months and years that followed, that I had a lot of fans, and that he was quite happy to have me come on board with the publication. We only spoke on the phone a few times and never met face to face and, yet, I came to value his friendship and leadership as a fun-loving, clear-thinking, wise activist with a keen awareness of our past, present and future footing as PWDs in the overall picture of human rights. He ferreted out obscure stories of profound interest with a tenacity and keen focus that often amazed me. As publisher of Independence Today, Pat was able to see the whole picture of where he wanted the publication to go in a multidimensional way. Pat was so smart and warm and opinionated, and I treasure the time I was able to know him. His messages and his life belong in uppercase. He is gone much, much too soon.

Ralph William Shields: Genius, gentleman and gentle soul. Friend. I will miss you but will never forget you or all that you fought for. Thank you for touching our lives.

Laurie Kotecki: Pat was a very good friend to me at the time when I needed it the most. I will always remember his great smile and upbeat attitude toward life. He was always concerned about me and my two beautiful girls and gave me good advice. He has been called “home” as he now has another mission to accomplish, like my daughter Kara. His good deeds are just beginning for him, and what he has accomplished in his life here is incredible. It has been my honor and privilege to have had Pat in my life.

Opal Shelton-Colvin: Pat was a good man and a loyal friend. He was fair and honest. He was also amazingly funny without making an effort at it. It was an honor to write for him and get to know him as a true gentleman and a friend. He will be greatly missed.


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