There is something sickening about a case the Supreme Court just heard about a boy with autism and what level of public education he — and other students with disabilities — deserve.
Here’s some background: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is a federal law requiring public schools to provide children with disabilities a “free appropriate public education.” Students in special education get “individualized education programs, or IEPs, or blueprints that spell out supports and goals for each child. The Supreme Court ruled decades ago that IEPs must lay out plans that provide some educational benefit, but it didn’t set a benefit standard, and lower courts have been divided over what it should be. Some have required a substantial — or “meaningful” educational benefit — while others require only a de minimis — or anywhere above trivial — educational benefit.
Now the Supreme Court — which held a hearing in the case Wednesday — is being asked to decide on a standard, which is essentially the same as deciding whether the United States really cares about providing all students a free and appropriate public education, and whether it is wholly committed to helping families that have children with disabilities.
These are the facts of the court case, which could affect millions of children with disabilities and the public schools they attend:
A boy named Drew was diagnosed with autism at age 2, affecting his cognitive functioning, language and reading skills, and his social and adaptive abilities. From preschool through fourth grade, he received special education services in schools in Colorado’s Douglas County district.
By fourth grade, his parents saw his behavior get increasingly worse. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which got involved in this case, said fourth grade was “especially rocky.”
Drew exhibited multiple behaviors that inhibited his ability to access learning in the classroom. In the past, he has climbed over furniture and other students, hit things, screamed, ran away from school, and twice removed his clothing and gone to the bathroom on the floor of the classroom.
Drew’s parents said that although they saw some progress in Drew, it was minimal, so they pulled him from the public school system and placed him in a private school that used interventions that experts consider effective for many children with autism. Reports about his progress under an intervention called ABA were very positive, with “great” behavioral gains that led to an ability to pay more attention in class, complete math and verbal skills work and interact with peers and teachers.
Under the federal law called the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), parents can seek tuition reimbursement from the school district and can win if several conditions are met. One of them is that their son wasn’t getting enough “educational benefit” from the public schools. Drew’s parents applied for reimbursement — arguing that the public district had not provided him with a free and appropriate public education. They were denied by the school system. That started a trek through the courts, leading to the Supreme Court, which is reviewing a 2015 decision by the 10th Circuit, which upheld the school system’s decision, using a very low standard for educational progress.
What is enough educational benefit? That’s what the Supreme Court is being asked to consider, and that, when you think about it, is where this case gets ugly.
Remember that we are talking about young people with disabilities — some of them so severe that a child might, for example, have the intellectual capacity of a 6-month-old, or have frequent disruptive seizures — and their families, some of whom have daily burdens that others can’t begin to imagine.
So is minimal educational benefit enough? You may not know exactly what “minimal” is, buy by definition, you wouldn’t want that to be the standard for your child. Is “some” benefit — which courts have said means progress that is barely above trivial — enough for your child — or somebody else’s? Or do students with disabilities deserve a standard requiring “meaningful” benefit and if so, what does “meaningful” mean? Should the standard be “appropriate”? During the Wednesday hearing, nine different standards were mentioned in the proceedings within a half-hour period.
Should children with any disability be at the mercy of a standard that depends on the federal appellate jurisdiction in which his school district is located?
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The Supreme Court justices on Wednesday seemed to be dissatisfied with the 10th Circuit’s ruling that public schools can meet IDEA requirements by providing an education to students with disabilities that is more than trivial, but there was no seeming direction indicated about what standard they do think makes sense.
In the IDEA legislation, Congress set a maximum target for the federal contribution to special education spending equal to 40 percent of the estimated excess cost of educating children with disabilities. Thus, if the program were “fully funded,” the states would receive their maximum grants, calculated at 40 percent of the national average per pupil expenditure (APPE) times the number of children with disabilities served in the school year 2004-2005, adjusted for population changes. Under the act, the count of children with disabilities cannot exceed 12 percent of the state’s total school population.
For FY 2014, IDEA federal funding covered 16 percent of the estimated excess cost of educating children with disabilities, less than in FY 2008 when federal funding covered 17 percent of the cost and well below FY 2009 when additional funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act covered 33 percent of the cost. IDEA Part B “full funding” for FY 2014 would have amounted to approximately $28.65 billion, or roughly $17.17 billion more than was actually appropriated. The shortfall in IDEA funding has been assumed by the states and local school districts.
Yet there is something chilling about some of the debate about this issue. The debate is being played out in legalese — there’s lots of talk about “procedure” — in the world of words rather than people. As Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said in Wednesday’s hearing: “What is frustrating about this case and this statute is we have a blizzard of words.”
A blizzard of words that seem to fly right over the actual people being affected. As Gary Mayerson, a civil rights lawyer and board member of Autism Speaks, an advocacy organization, said in this article by my colleague Emma Brown: “I can’t even believe that this is really a question for the court to wrestle with.”
(TWO MONTHS AGO MY 33 YR OLD NEPHEW DIED FROM THIS IN SCRANTON SO THIS STORY HAS PERSONAL MEANING TO ME)
JAN 9 2017, 11:08 AM ET
Wilkes-Barre Faces Heroin Scourge Turning It Into ‘the Most Unhappy Place in America’
‘Dropping Like Flies’: Heroin Epidemic Takes Hold of PA County 7:36
For William Lisman, the longtime Luzerne County coroner, the first sign of the coming plague appeared in the hills of northeastern Pennsylvania in November 2015.
A 27-year-old woman from one of the mountain towns surrounding Wilkes-Barre was found dead in her family home.
Lisman suspected a drug overdose. She was young. She had been healthy. There were no obvious signs of trauma. And heroin abuse had been on the rise in recent years.
“When a person dies of an overdose, the lungs fill with fluid,” he said. “The victims essentially drown in their own fluids.”
Because autopsies are expensive and time-consuming, many coroners faced with cases like these do toxicological tests designed to pick up traces of known drugs to determine the cause of death. But the first test Lisman administered came back negative. So did the second.
So Lisman listed the cause of death as undetermined.
Several days later, a 34-year-old man was found dead in a sleeping bag in the nearby city of Hazleton.
Once again, Lisman suspected a fatal drug overdose. Once again, the tox tests came back negative. And once again, he listed the cause of death as undetermined.
“I remember when it started because it was budget time and they were about to cut my budget,” he said, with a wry chuckle. “At that point the doctor I had been consulting with (about these two cases) told me, ‘Bill, there is something going on here’.”
Like many coroners in smaller counties, Lisman is not a doctor. But he knows about death. A third-generation Wilkes-Barre resident, he and his family ran a funeral home that buried several generations of city residents. He reached out to fellow coroners in neighboring counties to see if they had similar cases.
They had. And the answer was fentanyl, a powerful painkiller the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says is 25 to 50 times more potent than heroin, packs 50 to 100 times more punch than morphine, and can be manufactured easily by illegal drug mills. This was the same drug that killed Prince last April.
“I started hearing about fentanyl and how drug dealers were cutting heroin with it,” he said.
Lisman said he had the toxicological tests “tweaked” to detect the presence of fentanyl and “after that, the drug overdoses here skyrocketed.”
Facing a crisis, Lisman called the local newspaper, The Times Leader, last May and sounded the alarm.
“I knew I wasn’t going to stop people from using, but I wanted people to know what they were using,” he said. “This stuff can kill them.”
And it has.
The deadly math in Wilkes-Barre
Last year there were 137 fatal drug overdoses — more than half of them the result of heroin laced with fentanyl — in a county of just 318,000 people.
That death rate is four times higher than New York City.
“Twenty years ago, we might have 12 deaths we determined to be drug deaths,” Lisman said. “This year we are on track for 150 deaths…By our standards, it’s off the charts.”
There have been so many fatal drug overdoses that Lisman, who uses an examination room in the basement of a local hospital to do autopsies, said he has had to “finagle space to put all the bodies.”
“I have only room for two in my cooler,” he said. “There’s room for just 10 more in the hospital’s other cooler.”
The victims reflect the demographics of the county — they’re mostly white, often lower to middle-income, Lisman said.
“Age wise, we are across the spectrum, from 20’s to the 70’s,” he said. “We see everyone from the guy in the flophouse to the hard-working guys or gals who find relief in drugs.”
Also, while heroin users in the past relied on needles, “the vast majority now is being snorted,” said Lisman. “A user doesn’t have to go through the process of injecting now. It makes it easier to use.”
A big part of the reason Wilkes-Barre is grappling with a drug problem, Lisman said, is because this city of 41,000 is just a two-hour drive from Philadelphia and from New York City. Interstates 80 and 81 converge just south of the city.
A packet of heroin that sells for $5 in the Bronx can fetch double that in Wilkes-Barre, Lisman said. And if it’s cut with fentanyl, the profit quadruples along with the danger to the users.
“Heroin definitely has its hold on this area,” said Cathy Ryzner, a certified recovery specialist at the Wyoming Valley Alcohol & Drug Services in Wilkes-Barre. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Every time you look in the newspaper and you see somebody died young and at home, you know. You know.”
Christopher Emmett buried his 23-year-old son, Christopher Jr., in August, although in his case it was due to a lethal mixture of morphine and codeine.
“Every time I hear of somebody dying it’s always with the fentanyl mixed with it, it’s never somebody that just did heroin and died from doing heroin,” he said.
From boom town to boarded-up storefronts
The plague hit Wilkes-Barre as the proud county seat on the Susquehanna River was struggling to reverse decades of decay.
Once a thriving city of 80,000, Wilkes-Barre was built by coal and manufacturing barons who erected stately homes and public edifices like the stunning Luzerne County Court House and the 14-story Luzerne National Bank Building in Public Square. Thousands of Italian, Polish and Irish immigrants poured into the city to work in the mines and toil in the garment factories.
But the city lost half its population when the anthracite coal mines died in the 1950s and the good manufacturing jobs began vanishing. And in 1972, Hurricane Agnes delivered a body blow to the local economy when it flooded downtown with nine feet of water.
After that, Wilkes-Barre became a city of abandoned buildings and boarded-up store fronts as the remaining residents struggled to find their footing in an economy where the main employers were now government agencies, the local colleges and hospitals.
The recession in 2008 hit Wilkes-Barre — long a Democratic bastion — hard. And when Barack Obama was running for president, hopeful residents voted for him in droves and did so again when he ran for reelection in 2012. But while the rest of the country rebounded, this Rust Belt city and the rest of the county, including Vice President Joe Biden’s hometown of Scranton, were slow to recover.
Many jobs returned, but not many were the good-paying kind that could support a middle-class life. And those who opted to stay in Wilkes-Barre became disappointed and resentful.
“They want the jobs they had before, not the jobs that are available now,” said Kathy Bozinski , the marketing and communications chief at the United Way of Wyoming Valley. “A lot of good things happened during the Obama Administration, but a lot of the things the folks here were hoping for just didn’t happen.”
In November, Luzerne County voted for Donald Trump instead of Hillary Clinton, handing the Republican a narrow but shocking victory that helped propel him to the White House.
“I hate to use the cliché, but there are a lot of angry white guys in the region who 20 years ago were making decent money ,” Bozinski said. “Now they are struggling to pay the mortgage and have a good life. There is a lot of frustration.”
Mary Wallace, who is Lisman’s office administrator, said for many people leaving Wilkes-Barre for a better life somewhere else is not an option.
“It’s hard for people who have been here for generations, whose families are buried here, to pick up and move even if they might be better off somewhere else,” she said. “This is their home.”
The most unhappy place in the United States
Two years ago, a pair of researchers — one from Harvard, the other from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada — concluded that the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metro area was the most unhappy place in the U.S.
They reached their conclusion after wading through the results of telephone polls conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between 2005 and 2009, including answers to the question, “How satisfied are you with your life?”
Lisman, whose four grown children did not return to the Wilkes-Barre after finishing college, agreed that they live in a depressed community.
“We have a lot of people who are unhappy with life,” he said. “People using drugs are looking to escape.”
For Lisman, the heroin plague “is a symptom of the way people here feel and have felt for years.”
“I don’t have an answer for opiate addiction,” he said, his smile fading fast. “The pain and suffering that it has caused is unbelievable. It is eating away at the core of society.”
Cathy Ryzner, a certified recovery specialist at Wyoming Valley Alcohol & Drug Services, said the people she sees are dealing with a host of demons beyond the economic, everything from sexual abuse and broken homes to being raised in households where drinking and drug-taking runs rampant. She’s seen people who get hooked on prescription drugs make the move to heroin.
“But I can’t just blame the doctors,” she said. “It’s a little bit of economics, little bit of hardship, little bit of being raised like that.”
Drugs like heroin, she said, “makes all your problems melt away.”
“It masks any kind of hurt, any kind of feeling…after three days of doing opiates you are addicted,” she said. “You don’t even know you’re getting caught up.”
And Ryzner would know. She was a drug addict for three decades and has been clean for 10 years.
Death by drug overdose “just not natural”
It was against this backdrop that the heroin plague hit the region.
Coroner Lisman, whose dad was once the mayor of Wilkes-Barre, said that at first he made a point of personally going to the scenes when a suspected fatal overdose was reported. No more.
“Now it’s become so routine,” said Lisman, who has gone back to dispatching his deputies to do the grim work of taking the bodies to the morgue.
But Lisman says he is very much aware of what this plague is doing to his hometown and admits it has left him shaken.
“I was raised in an apartment above a funeral home….death never scared me,” he said.
What bothers him, he said, is the resignation he has seen in the victims’ families ones who react “almost with relief.”
“It bothers me that somebody’s life could reach a point that death could be a positive thing,” he said.
This from a man who has comforted thousands of people over the years whose loved ones died of natural causes, sometimes after enduring years of pain.
“Death by drug overdose is different,” he said. “That’s just not natural.”
One case in particular still haunts him. The police had gotten a 911 call and arrived to find a young couple in their 30s dead in bed from “a hot load of heroin while their 5-year-old son was watching TV and eating Cheerios,” Lisman said. “He knew enough to call the police for help.”
Death behind closed doors
The heroin plague in Wilkes-Barre is largely hidden with death taking drug abusers behind closed doors.
“You don’t see junkies on the street,” said Bozinski, who was previously an Emmy Award-winning TV and radio reporter. “This happens behind closed doors. In bedrooms and basements.”
But the effects ripple across the city and touch everyone.
“Everywhere you go you hear, ‘Did you see the story about that one in the paper? Was that another drug overdose?” said Wallace. “That’s what everyone here is talking about.”
The toll is not just psychic. Crime is up, police report, especially petty thefts and break-ins by drug abusers looking for money to score a fix. And the dealers are almost always out-of-towners.
“They’re not racist,” Bozinski said of Wilkes-Barre’s residents. “Yes, some white guys blame people from outside for bringing drugs here. But there’s also the acknowledgement that there is a market for it here.”
“We’re behind the times,” said 42-year-old Paul Smith, who was born and raised in the city — and who buried his former partner Jeremy three weeks earlier after he died of a heroin overdose. “A lot of the problems that were happening in other places are now happening here.”
Sitting in a local bar called Hun’s Café 99 and nursing a beer and a basket of chicken wings , Smith said Jeremy didn’t know what he was dealing with when he started snorting heroin.
“It’s been a very hard thing,” he said. “I spent a lot of time helping him to get clean. It was a very hard reality. And it was very hard to find services to help him.”
Smith said people in Wilkes-Barre turn to drugs because they are already depressed about their lives, depressed that they have to work two or three jobs to get by.
“That’s why people went for Trump,” said Smith, who runs a limo service, owns real estate — and admits to voting for the Manhattan mogul as well. “People are so sick of other people doing better.”
Sitting beside Smith was 28-year-old John Sabatelli. He agreed that it was ignorance of dangerous new variety of heroin that was fueling the crisis. He recalled being surprised when he discovered that a couple at the warehouse where he works was getting high on heroin in the bathroom.
“It’s surprising in that you don’t know who is going to do it,” he said.
Grieving dad Christopher Emmett said drugs have got a death grip on his community. He said his doomed son started smoking pot at age 13 and quickly graduated to harder drugs. He said Christopher Jr. was in and out of rehab – and so were most of his friends.
“It is really an epidemic,” Emmett said. “We went to 14 funerals of my son’s friends who died of addiction in just one year. They’re dropping like flies, every day.”
Emmett’s wife, Patricia, burst into tears at the thought of spending Christmas without her son. And as she cried, her boy’s ashes sat in an urn on a shelf in the living room.
“There ain’t no Christmas,” she said, bitterly.
A proud town fights on
Wilkes-Barre may be down now but it is far from defeated. In Public Square, new restaurants like Franklin’s have opened to serve the young professionals who have moved downtown to live in loft apartments in some of the vintage buildings.
Older establishments like the Café Toscana were bustling with diners on a Tuesday night. And so was the brand new Chick-fil-A, which is located on the first floor of dorm that King’s College built right on the square in an attempt to make students part of the city’s revival.
Just outside downtown loomed the rotting hulks of long-abandoned factories. But higher up in the hills, Christmas lights twinkled on many of the modest-but-clearly kept up homes and the streets bustled with families going about the business of everyday life.
Over at the ornate county courthouse, which dates back to 1909 and which was built at a time when the future of Wilkes-Barre seemed bright, a chorus of fourth graders from a school across the river in Larksville filed into the central hall to perform a medley of Christmas carols.
Watching them was the grandmother of one of the 11-year-old, a chubby, brown-haired boy with untied gym shoes. His face creased into an angelic smile when he spotted his grandma.
“I am scared for him,” said the grandmother, who declined to give her name. “I have family that got hooked on drugs. I don’t want that to happen to him.”
Asked why the area has been so ravaged by drugs, she shook her head. “I don’t know, maybe because they’re so easy to get,” she said.
The children’s music teacher, Joseph James, said so far his kids “are completely sheltered” from the heroin crisis unfolding around them.
Last week in court, Jamal Mansour, 64, pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder charges, and his attorney reaffirmed the same reason for the shooting: A mere accident.
This despite new evidence entered into court that Mansour was caught on video loading his revolver at a gas station the day before the shooting.
Tahani Mansour, 27, was shot twice in the head, allegedly by her own father while she slept.
That adds yet another layer to the case. Not only did Mansour shoot his 27-year-old daughter, Tahani, three times in the head at close range, once from just one foot away, while she lie helpless in her bed at 1:15 a.m., but he should have known his gun was loaded, prosecutors said.
The prosecution is not buying the “accident” theory, saying the video of him loading his gun the day before proves he had a “calculated plan.”
Prosecutor Michael O’Shea has described the killing as an assassination carried out “execution style,” but he refuses to say what could have motivated Mansour, leading some to suggest that it was an honor killing.
But the defendant’s attorney, Angelo Lenardo, took issue with that, saying the mere suggestion was “racist and offensive.”
To decipher a motive, the prosecutors may need to consult an expert on Shariah law, which guides Muslim fathers in family matters.
Mansour is a Muslim who migrated to the United States in the 1978 from Jordan. And, according to experts on Islamic law, his execution-style killing of his adult daughter bears the hallmarks of an Islamic honor killing.
Tahani had recently traveled alone on a business trip to Las Vegas against her father’s wishes. They’d reportedly had an argument about that trip.
“Mr. Mansour might have assimilated to Western culture sufficiently to shave his beard and wear jeans but not to accept his daughter behaving like Western girls,” said Daniel Akbari, a former top Shariah lawyer in Iran and author of “Honor Killing: A Professional’s Guide to Sexual Relations and Ghayra Violence from the Islamic Sources.”
Tahani Mansour was educated and successful. She received a doctor of pharmacy degree from Northeast Ohio Medical University in 2013, worked as a clinical pharmacist for University Hospitals and taught at the University of Findlay and the medical school, according to her LinkedIn account.
Yet she still lived at home under her father’s protection, a totally Islamic thing to do for even a grown adult woman.
Tahani Mansour was the youngest of six children.
Tahani’s brother called 9-1-1 for help at 1:15 a.m. He told the operator his father just shot his sister in her room at the family’s home on Vine Court.
This is how a portion of the 9-1-1 call went:
Operator: “Go ahead sir.” Caller: “Yes, my sister has been shot. Please send an ambulance, please.” Operator: “OK, where has she been shot at?” Caller: “In her room.” Operator: “OK. Did she shoot herself? Did you see who shot her?” Caller: “No, my father shot her.”
Dr. Joan Horvath told Fox 8 in Cleveland that the family lived on the street for years but kept to themselves. Other neighbors said the same thing.
“I understand that they have children. I have never seen the children. I would not recognize them. I’ve seen the father cutting the grass and occasionally the mother puttering with flowers, but I have never seen the children,” said Horvath. “The thought to me, of a father shooting a daughter, who is normally the apple of a father’s eye, is so heartbreaking. What drove him to that. What are the dynamics of that family that made him feel that the only way to stop something is to shoot his daughter?”
The assignment was simple—to write a persuasive essay defending the actions of the Ku Klux Klan—yet the reactions to it were anything but. Parents of the 12- t0 14-year-old students who were given the essay prompt at the Business and Economics Academy of Milwaukee (BEAM), a charter school in Wisconsin, were startled enough by the…
Have you ever been a step-parent? Have you ever been a stepchild? I grew up in a house where I had both of my biological parents there. Did you notice that I did not use the word ‘home’, that I simply said house? Just because I had both of my biological parents living within the same four walls as I did, this did not mean that it was automatically a ‘home’. I had a great Mom but my Dad was severely lacking in his human skills. I left home at 17 because of how much of a hell-hole he made of our family life. He died when I was 37 and it took me till I was about 40 before I could forgive him of his ways toward me. Only when I was able to say to myself that he really was an ‘a–hole’ and that he also was mentally ill before I was able to forgive him. I know that I asked my Mom a couple of times before she died if Dad really was my Dad, asking her if maybe Dad thought that I really wasn’t his as I was trying to find a way to come to grips with how horribly he treated me and if there really was a ‘why’ that made any sense. I thought that if maybe he thought that I really wasn’t his, that if he thought Mom had cheated on him that this might be the reason he was such an a– toward me but she told me no both times about the issue. There is an old term about ‘beating you like you’re a redheaded step child’ that might come into play with me but that wasn’t it, I am of his own blood. I brought this up because I was the only blonde child and the only left-handed child, so I thought, well maybe. I did not ever experience a step-parent situation even though I honestly felt having no Dad in our house would have been much better than having a hate filled drunken maniac dominating our household.
I grew up determined not to be anything like my Dad’s example of a human being though I did make many parenting mistakes of my own. I married a lady in Texas who had a son who was 11 at the time we met and married, he is now 46 and married with a child/son of his own and as far as I know he is a great Dad who loves his son very much. 17 years ago I remarried to a lady in Florida who had a son who was 6 at the time, his biological Dad had committed suicide when he was 4. This son was a bit difficult because he didn’t believe or understand that both of us really did love him. He was about 16 before he actually ‘got it’, once he did see that light he now for the past 7 years has become a great child to both of us, especially to me. He is now 23 and a year ago his Mom and I bought a house that has a full 3 bedroom 1 bath apartment with a ‘walkout’ basement. One of the big factors in buying this house was so that he could live there if he wanted to, and he did.
Ten years ago his Mom and I would never have thought he could come so far in his development as a person, as an adult. I am sure that none of the three of us would have thought that after he turned 18 that he would want anything to do with us or quite frankly us to do with him. What changed him? I believe it was him coming to the understanding of the fact that he really was loved, by both of us. He is a grown man now, there is nothing that says he has to live in this basement apartment, he chooses to. A couple of years ago he told me something that really stuck in my heart, that meant a whole lot to me. He told me, “Dad, all the good that is in me is because of you”. When a child you have raised loves you even when they are adults and there is nothing that says they have to do so or to even pretend that they do, that is very gratifying to one’s Soul. About 20 or so odd years ago there was a Country Music song that came out called “the Dad he doesn’t have to be” about a man stepping into a marriage with a woman who had a son already and how this man performed his role as a Dad. I am blessed to have two sons who were not biological to me that still love me, even though they do not have any obligation to have to do so. This is why the title of this note to you “the son he doesn’t have to be.” I am a strong believer in blood family yet I have learned that blood alone does not guarantee they will love you. I have also learned that someone who is not blood to you can still absolutely be “family” and love you even more that those who are blood to you do.
Florence Henderson, who played the cheerful mom in the 1970s sitcom The Brady Bunch, has died, her manager told the Associated Press. She was 82.
Kayla Pressman said in a statement late Thursday that Henderson passed away surrounded by family and friends. Entertainment Tonight reported that she died from heart failure, surrounded by her four children.
Family and friends had been at Henderson’s hospital bedside, Pressman said.
Although her best-known role as the cheerful matriarch of The Brady Bunch only ran for five seasons, it lived on in syndication for decades, cementing Henderson’s status as one of TV’s most beloved moms.
There were spinoffs and reunion specials like 1977’s The Brady Bunch Hour, 1981’s The Brady Brides and The Bradys in 1990, a Fuller House-style outing which featured the marriages and families of the six grown Brady children. She also joined the cast of the 1995 spoof The Brady Bunch Movie, playing Grandma Brady opposite Cheers star Shelley Long as Carol.
Celebs react to ‘Brady Bunch’ star Florence Henderson’s death
The Brady Bunch “represents what people always wanted: a loving family. It’s such a gentle, innocent, sweet show, and I guess it proved there’s always an audience for that,” Henderson told the AP in 1999.
Premiering in 1969, it also was among the first shows to introduce to television the blended family. As its theme song reminded viewers each week, Henderson’s Carol was a single mother raising three daughters when she met her TV husband, Robert Reed’s Mike Brady, a single father who was raising three boys. The eight of them became The Brady Bunch with a quirky housekeeper, played by Ann B. Davis, thrown into the mix.
Remembering Florence Henderson, ‘America’s TV mom’
Florence Henderson, who played one of America’s most beloved TV moms on ‘The Brady Bunch,’ died Thursday at 82 of heart failure. Holland America Line
Remembering Florence Henderson, ‘America’s TV mom’
Henderson and her cast mates weren’t quite prepared for how famous they would become.
“We had to have security guards with us. Fans were hanging on our doors. We couldn’t go out by ourselves. We were like the Beatles!” she said of the attention the show brought the cast.
What we all need right now: The fabulous facial expressions of Carol Brady
Numerous memoirs also kept interest in the show alive, as cast members revealed they were more than just siblings off camera. Barry Williams, who played eldest son Greg Brady, would confess to having a crush on his TV step-mom. Henderson, in her own book, denied having any relationship with Williams, but did acknowledge a fling with former New York City mayor John Lindsay.
The woman who would become America’s TV mom was born Feb. 14, 1934, in the small town of Dale in southern Indiana. She was the 10th child of a tobacco sharecropper of Irish descent. The proud Hoosier would later return to Indiana to sing at 23 runnings of the Indianapolis 500 and served as the Grand Marshal at the 100th edition.
Florence Henderson sang at 23 editions of the Indy 500
After high school, Henderson moved to New York, where she enrolled in a two-year program at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, her studies financed by a theatrical couple who had been impressed by her singing when they saw her perform in high school.
Henderson was a 19-year-old drama student in New York when she landed a one-line role in the play Wish You Were Here.
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were so impressed they made her the female lead in a 1952 road tour of Oklahoma!. When the show returned to Broadway for a revival in 1954, she continued in the role and won rave reviews.
“She is the real thing,” wrote Walter Kerr of the New York Herald Tribune.
To broaden her career, Henderson took acting, dancing, singing and guitar lessons, even studying French and Italian.
She originated the title role in Fanny in the mid 1950’s and went on to play Maria in a road production of The Sound of Music. She also played Nellie Forbush in a revival of South Pacific and returned to Broadway with Jose Ferrer in The Girl Who Came to Supper in 1963.
Her career nearly came to an end in 1965 when she suddenly lost her hearing while appearing in The King and I in Los Angeles, and was diagnosed with a condition linked to heredity. “Corrective surgery in both ears restored my hearing,” she said in 2007.
She made her movie debut in 1970 in Song of Norway, based on the 1944 operetta with music by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.
As her TV career blossomed with The Brady Bunch, Henderson also began to make frequent TV guest appearances. She was the first woman to host The Tonight Show for the vacationing Johnny Carson.
For eight years she commuted to Nashville to conduct a cooking and talk series, Country Kitchen, on The Nashville Network. The show resulted in a book, Florence Henderson’s Short Cut Cooking.
After The Brady Bunch ended its first run, Henderson alternated her appearances in revivals of the show with guest appearances on other programs, including Hart to Hart, Fantasy Island and The Love Boat.
In later years she made guest appearances on such shows as Roseanne, Ally McBeal and The King of Queens.
Henderson married theater executive Ira Bernstein and the couple had four children before the union ended in divorce after 29 years.
Her second husband, John Kappas, died in 2002.
Pressman said she is survived by her children; Barbara, Joseph, Robert and Lizzie, their respective spouses, and five grandchildren.
The Cookie Lady-A True Story of a wonderful person who lived from 1930-2000.
My name is Blanche, I was born into a poor white family in Benson Minnesota in September of 1930. My mother is Sophie Amanda Hanson. She was born here in Benson Minnesota in December of 1905. My dad is Elbert Anders of Galax, Virginia. He was born in September of 1905. I only have one sibling, my brother Lonnie who was born in January of 1936 in Faith South Dakota. But, I won’t speak of Faith just yet. My mom’s parents came here from Norway in the late 1880’s and had more kids than the fingers could count. Mom was just one of many of the Hanson children but in my opinion was the sweetest of all. Mom obtained a seventh grade education, enough to read and write clearly. Dad was a rambler who was doing just that in 1928 when he and my mom met.
Dad seemed to always love two things most in life, horses and women. I don’t blame my dad for all of his faults; after all, we all have some. Dad never had any education at all and never did learn to read and write. It was the late 1960’s before he learned how to sign his name.
Watching my parents struggle throughout my childhood ingrained in me the determination to get an education and to stay in school and get my high school diploma. This was one of the few goals in my life that I was able to accomplish. My childhood taught me many things; things like the rich had good educations. And that the rich got rich and stayed rich on the sweat off the uneducated poor man’s back. Even as a small child I was always aware that we were looked down upon by those who could afford the nice clothes, fancy cars and big houses.
Mom and dad got married in 1928 in Benson. I never could figure why mom would have married my dad. Maybe it was that she was considered an old maid, going on 23 and still not hitched. I know she was never happy in her life with the cards she had been dealt. You know, uneducated, poor women aren’t anything except slaves to their uneducated ignorant husbands. Even the children that they bare are just an extension of the male’s property.
Shortly after I was born dad moved us to a little town in western South Dakota called Faith. A saying that I remember about Faith was fitting, “Faith South Dakota, a hundred miles from anywhere”. Dad had a couple of brothers that lived out that away. So I guess it was fitting that he would up and ramble toward them next.
I remember our years in South Dakota as being a pure hell, Faith with its dirt streets and water that had to be trucked in. It seems like I was always cold and dirty there. We lived in several one room shacks, some just lean-to’s on the back of peoples’ houses, seems like we were always hungry and cold. There were several of the places we lived that had dirt floors with walls and roofs that you could see straight through to the outside. I guess Faith was the reason I never did like to do any camping, so many of the places we lived seemed almost like we were camping.
To be fair to the town, maybe things wouldn’t have been as bad as they were if dad would have cared more about his family and less about other women, horses and bulldogs. Dad always tried to keep a horse and a bulldog or two. The horse I could understand, we hardly ever had a car, so the horse was his transportation back in those years. The bulldogs, I don’t know why he liked to have them. I guess it was just so he could have something else to beat on. I was always scared of his dogs, yet I always felt sorry for them. They were always kept chained to a stake in the back yard. Looking back, it might have been that he knew the dogs would bark if we had any visitors. The way he was always chasing after women, I guess that wasn’t such a bad idea.
My brother Lonnie was born there in Faith in January of 1936. It was always nice having a brother. Throughout our childhoods we were each others best friends, confidants and play partners. Yet having a brother was difficult too. It wasn’t just having another mouth to feed and back to clothe. It was also the having to see the hardships put upon yet another one that you loved without being able to do anything to correct it, or stop it.
I remember one night it had gotten dark and dad wasn’t home from his job yet and mom was crying real hard. I didn’t understand why mom was so upset because it was normal that dad didn’t come home before dark. I asked mom what was wrong and she told me about the rent being due that night, and dad being paid that day, but he hadn’t paid the rent or come home with his pay.
This was in the summer of 1937 and I was almost seven years old. My brother Lonnie was just about one and a half at the time. Mom said she had to stay home with the baby, but she told me to go through town and look for dad’s horse, find him and ask him to please come home, pay the rent and buy the family some food. It wasn’t long before I found dad’s horse tied up beside a building that had a lot of music and noise coming from it. I noticed a window on the side of the building with some empty wood crates by it. I took a few of the crates and stacked them up to where I could get up on them and look into that window. What I seen shocked me a lot. There was a naked woman sitting on top of my dad in a chair and he was also naked. They were just laughing and seemed to be having a lot of fun. Well, I was so surprised that I stumbled and fell off the crates onto the ground, with the crates falling after me. I made such a noise that the woman and dad both came and looked out the window at me. Dad was sure mad at me and he whipped me all the way home.
When we got home dad was still mad and he hollered at mom for a long time, I know she cried for hours. Dad said that mom and I had embarrassed him something horrible by doing what we had done. A couple of days after that dad sold his horse and his dogs and he pulled up to the shack we were living in, in an old dilapidated 1922 Ford car. Dad and mom took what few things we had, stuffed them and the four of us into the car and we left Faith South Dakota for a place called Galax Virginia.
I didn’t know anything about this place we were headed, I just hoped it was better than the place we had been. I know I prayed that I would never see Faith or South Dakota again for all I remembered of them was hardship. As it turned out I would see both again, but at least it would wait almost thirty years.
The trip from Faith to Galax is about 2,000 miles and in that old piece of junk dad was driving it took us three weeks to make it to Galax. I learned that the reason dad chose Galax was because he had several brothers and sisters living in and around this town he was born in. The three weeks the trip took seemed like forever. At night we would stop alongside the road and we would sleep on the ground beside the car. I remember being so scared and so hungry, hoping that we could make it to our new home.
When we finally made it to Galax we were broke and hungry. None of dad’s folks knew we were coming but none the less they took us in and kept us alive. I know it embarrassed mom a lot as we moved from one of dad’s kin to another over the first two months. But eventually one of dad’s brothers was able to get dad on at the mine he was working at just across the North Carolina line. Mom got a job at the local hospital changing linens and bed pans for the patients.
After a couple of months mom and dad were able to save enough money to rent a house in “the bottom” there in town. The bottom was a place that the working white poor folk lived. But still the house we were renting was like a real home. It had windows and wood floors and you couldn’t see any stars at night while lying in bed. Even though you could feel the cold air in the winter around the windows and doors at least it wasn’t so bad that the snow would come through them when they were closed. A few years later we were able to buy a different house there in the bottom down by the swinging bridge. That was after the war had started and dad was getting to work regular. It was a two bedroom with an inside toilet and a pot-bellied coal stove in the living room that kept us warm in the winter.
With the move to Virginia our scenery got a lot prettier, the weather was a lot nicer, and the people seemed to be friendlier. Our housing situation was much more stable and mom and dad had regular work. So a lot of things were better, more stable for us now, but there was still much heartache. The change of location didn’t change any of dad’s ways. We soon had a bulldog staked in the backyard and dad bought himself a horse and paid a farmer money to keep the horse at his place. Any money he had left was always spent on other women.
By now I was reaching an age to where I wasn’t as blind to the reality I was living in. For years I was required to take this little red wagon I had to a building downtown where I got food twice a month. This place handed out some flour, cornmeal, beans, bread, and cheese. If it wasn’t for Mr. Roosevelt, mom, Lonnie and I would have been very hungry. I guess that is a big reason why I was a lifelong democrat. I grew up believing that to vote republican you either had to be rich or stupid.
At the age of fourteen, I was able to get a job at the soda fountain inside the Peoples Drug Store in downtown Galax. I worked there three hours each evening and all day on Saturdays. I used this money to buy my own school clothes and the cost of my school supplies. I also worked in the school cafeteria serving food so that I could get my meals there for free. That was a lot better than having to run home at lunch, get a sandwich and a glass of milk then run back to school especially on the cold winter days.
I graduated high school in 1947. It was then I started working full-time at the drug store. I still lived at home and remained under dad’s control. I was never allowed to date. I’m sure it was because dad had his view of what women were and he wasn’t about to let me be anything like the women he had always known.
Dad worked with a man named Wayne Savage whom dad admired a lot because he was very strong and a real hard worker. As things worked out, Wayne had a younger brother named Bill who was getting out of the Navy from his two-year hitch in February of 1948. Wayne got Bill a job there at the mine when he was discharged from the Navy. So I ended up with dad’s insistence dating Bill and then marrying him May 29th, 1948. One truth I was always proud of is that I was a virgin on my wedding night.
Bill turned out to be a lot of the things dad was, and a lot of things he wasn’t. I think the reason Bill got married was for the free sex, free housekeeper, free cook and an extra paycheck. In my dad’s defense he was a hard worker and a non-drinker. Unfortunately Bill was an alcoholic and he never found a job he would stick with.
From 1949 through 1956 I gave birth to four children. Our oldest Larry was born in my mom’s home in June 1949 with a midwife. Our second child, Steven Ray was born in a hospital in Winston-Salem North Carolina in May of 1952. I have always been so glad that I gave birth to Steven in a hospital or I never would have been able to forgive myself. The doctors said Steven was born with a hole in his heart. In 1952 they couldn’t save him; he lived three days, never leaving the hospital. We buried Steven in the McKenzie Cemetery just outside of Galax. Our third child was our little girl Jackie; she was born in September of 1954. Jackie and our last child Ted were born in the hospital in Galax. Ted was born in August 1956. He was always sickly and skinny as a rail, at every meal it was difficult to get him to eat. This just made him a target for Bill. I dreaded every meal because you always knew that Bill would start yelling at him and then start beating him. Ted had to put up with that until he was seventeen. He stood up to Bill then and it was plain that Bill got scared, but he never treated Ted like that again. But that was 1973, so I’m getting ahead of myself so I’m going to step back in time to 1961.
Bill and our family had rented many places until we got lucky and was able to get the bank to finance us a small eight acre farm in nearby Woodlawn, Virginia. It was a dream come true for me, our own house. It was a three bedroom, one bath, two-story house with a small detached garage, a full size barn, and a hog house. The property was fenced in so we could have a cow and there was plenty of wild game such as squirrels, rabbits, pheasants and turkeys to keep the freezer full. In 1961 the cost of all this was $8,000.00.
By the time the spring of 1965 rolled around Bill had worked at about every place in the Galax area and none of the employers would have him anymore. That spring one of Bill’s drinking buddies stopped by our house and talked to Bill about the coal mines in Butte, Montana. Telling Bill about the good paying jobs there in the mines and how wonderful Montana was. In less than two weeks Bill was on a Greyhound bus.
The plan was for Bill to go there, get a good job, find the family a place, then in August come back to Virginia, sell the farm and we would move to Butte. Like always things didn’t work out that way. Bill came back on the bus the first of August without a dime in his pockets. He had been living in an apartment and had no place ready for us to move to. He said he had been keeping all his money in his apartment and shortly before he was to come back home someone broke into the apartment and stole all the money.
Bill’s plan was to come back to Virginia, sell the farm, and use the equity money to move with. It was many years later before we found out that the mines Bill was working at had closed down. This explained why he was broke when he came back. This also meant that Bill had no job to move us to. So he came back, we sold the farm for $8,500.00 netting a clear $800.00 to use for the move. Bill’s plan was to stop in Deadwood South Dakota where I had two uncles and aunts, play sick, say he went to a doctor, lie saying he had black lung and that he would be dead by forty if he continued mining. He was one month away from thirty-eight at that time.
So Bill, with no job to go to, sells our home, and moves his wife and three kids across the country headed to nothing. We stayed with my family for three days while Bill found a job in nearby Spearfish at the Homestake Sawmill. We then found a basement apartment to rent nearby the mill. The jobs in Galax all paid the minimum wage of $1.25 per hour. I found a job in a nursing home for, you guessed it, $1.25 per hour. Bills job at the mill paid $1.90 per hour.
This was August 1965, we didn’t escape there until November 1966. A representative from Chrysler Corporation came out there trying to recruit employees for a new assembly plant in Belvidere Illinois. Seems the local people were too offended that Chrysler was going to pay people more than $5.00 an hour with great benefits while the rest of the town was settled into jobs paying less than $2.00 an hour. I know that makes no sense, but a lot of people from South Dakota jumped on those jobs the Belvidere locals didn’t want.
In the fifteen months we were in Spearfish I was so depressed that we were going to end up stuck there forever. I have to admit we had a few good times while we were there. We did visit a few local parks, and Spearfish is in the “Black Hills”. During this time our oldest son Larry went back to Galax to live. He was sixteen, almost seventeen and he got a job at Vaughan Basset Furniture factory. He stayed there until just before we moved to Belvidere. He came back and helped us with the move then he decided to stay in Belvidere and when he turned eighteen he also got a job at Chrysler.
I remember that while we were in South Dakota we visited Mount Rushmore on our eighteenth anniversary (1966). We also took a trip in the summer of 66 to Faith to watch a big yearly rodeo they held. The roads were still dirt and I still saw water trucks, but they did have a good rodeo. On the Fourth of July 1966 we went to the big rodeo show in Deadwood. During an intermission they put on the Wild Bill Hickock Show, the one where he was shot in the back playing cards in the saloon. That’s pretty much all the good memories I have from there. I was just glad to get out of there in November of 66 as we headed east praying that Belvidere would be better.
When we got to Illinois we rented an apartment in the town of Cherry Valley for three months. The rent was $150.00 per month but after we had been there for three months they raised the rent to $200.00 so we looked around and found a nice old house in Belvidere for $85.00 a month. It was right by the city park, real close to the waterfall. If Bill could have ever quit his drinking and acted like a husband and a dad we could probably have been happy there.
We lived in that house from February 1967 till April 1970. We all survived the big F-4 tornado of April 21st, 1967 unharmed while living in that house. Also during that time frame Bill got hurt at work. Bill’s foreman told him to take a part over to a certain bucket and wash it off. Turns out the bucket had acid in it. Bill had only stuck his right hand down in it thank goodness. The acid really messed up his hand and the nerves with it. He ended up missing several months work and we sued Chrysler settling out of court for $10,000.00. We put $8,000.00 down on a home on the western outskirts of town that was priced at $25,000.00. It set on an acre of land bordering a large county park. Once again, if Bill could have just acted like a man we could have been very happy there.
In February 1974, Bill and I were in a car wreck in Belvidere as a man drove through a stop sign and hit us broadside. I wasn’t injured but Bill broke his left hip and cracked his left ankle. The day after Bill had his hip replacement he had a heart attack while lying in his hospital bed. He ended up having to have a four-way bypass operation. While Bill was recuperating he got a check in the mail from Social Security. Turns out that Chrysler went through the process to get him disabled because he had nine years in with them and at ten years guaranteed lifetime benefits would be coming into effect and they weren’t wanting to have to pay them.
Larry had gotten married in October 1968 to a lady with two kids; I think he married her to get out of being drafted into Vietnam, though I’ve always believed she really loved him. Jackie got married in August of 1971; I believe just to get out of the house and away from Bill. My youngest, Ted, got married in May 1975. Now I was home alone with Bill all the time. Without the kids there Bill was still as hateful as ever.
In 1977 we sold the big house on the west side and bought a nice ranch style house only a couple blocks from my work in town. It was a beautiful house and I really loved it. Also about this time Bill finally quit drinking and I had high hopes for a better life but that was just wishful thinking. Bill stayed just as hateful and self-centered as he had always been. I had always hoped it was the alcohol, it wasn’t, it was just who he was.
I had a bad left hip during this time and it was real painful to try to work with. I had tried for Social Security but got turned down so I had to go back to work after about eleven months off. I had only been back to work less than a year when Bill came up to the office and told them I had to quit because I had gotten my Social Security. When we got home I found that was not true. It had only been suggested by my lawyer to appeal. Well, during this time our income was not enough to pay the bills. So in 1981 we had to sell the house before we lost it. We only had enough money to buy a new, but cheap single wide trailer that because of zoning laws we had to put into a mobile home court. It was the nicest court in town but losing our home because of Bill’s ignorance just made me sick.
Shortly after we got moved I was turned down again on the Social Security. I had to go back up to that hole I had worked at since 1968 and ask for my job back, to my surprise they reinstated me with full seniority. I did end up getting a left hip replacement on my birthday 1992. The month before my oldest son Larry died of an aneurysm in his apartment in Scranton Pennsylvania. Bill’s health was constantly deteriorating and he died just before Christmas 1993 from heart failure. I ended up retiring in February 1994.
Now I was truly alone except for my daughter Jackie who lived locally and was now a Methodist minister. I did have a few people at church that I associated with. My son Ted was a long-haul truck driver who only got to stop in for a night or so about three or four times a year.
My dad died in his sleep in early March 1987. I had a major heart attack on June 1st, 1996 that really set me back physically. But 1996 would only get worse. Mom died all alone in a nursing home in August and my brother Lonnie died that November of brain cancer and heart failure.
The next year, 1997, I had to have my right hip replaced, again on my birthday. It was hard to make do on my own but I made it. Jackie came over and helped me some while I was recuperating and Ted would send me extra money when he could to help me out. He was paying my lot rent for me each month which really helped out. One day when Jackie and her husband were over I got a letter from Ted with a check for $690.00 in it, $190.00 for the lot rent and $500.00 to put up for emergency needs. Jackie and her husband got really mad at me for “taking Teds’ money” like that. So from that point on Ted and I never mentioned anything about him helping me.
In March of 1999, Ted had to have heart surgery after a heart attack and he was out of work with no income for a long time. So in the summer of 1999 I took a job at a local nursing home two hours per night. My job was to help clean up the dining area and kitchen after supper had been served to the residents. It wasn’t much of a job, I hated doing it but it did make my lot rent payment.
That fall an opening came up for an extra half hour per night to go from room to room passing out cookies. I took on the extra work, but I truly enjoyed doing it. I felt sorry for so many of these people who had been discarded and abandoned here by their family members. I enjoy talking with them each evening, trying to cheer them up. It wasn’t long before I became known as “the cookie lady”, I enjoyed that title, it made me feel wanted.
Well, this is Sunday morning August 20th, 2000. I sometimes find it hard to believe that with the life I have had that I would have made it to the year 2000. I just spoke to my son Ted at his home in Florida but I need to get going or I will be late for church. I still need to stop by Jackie’s before church and get her newspaper put in her house because they are on a weekend vacation.
Mom never made it to church. As she slowed down and turned into my sister’s driveway a young man driving a four-wheel drive Dodge Ram pickup thought it was a good time to speed up and pass. He hit mom right in the driver’s door at about seventy miles per hour, killing her instantly. He had hit her so hard that the coroner said the impact tore all the arteries away from her heart.
A bright light put out. A life lived in the darkness of others, seldom being allowed to shine. A life lived in so much sadness, put upon by others. So many joys of life denied her. In so many ways, a light, a life, unfulfilled. But a woman who will always be very much-loved, and missed “The Cookie Lady”, our Mom.
truthtroubles.wordpress.com/ Just an average man who tries to do his best at being the kind of person the Bible tells us we are all suppose to be. Not perfect, never have been, don't expect anyone else to be perfect either. Always try to be very easy going type of a person if allowed to be.
#ActuallyAutistic - An Aspie obsessed with writing. This site is intend to inspire through sharing stories & experiences. The opinions of the writers are their own. I am just an Autistic woman - NOT a medical professional.