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Memorial Homily for Disability Rights Leader Bob Alllamand

Sermon with Robert O’Sullivan

Over fifty years a quadriplegic, Bob Allamand was one of four spokespersons at the historic San Francisco Federal Building sit- in which precipitated the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Over fifty years a quadriplegic, Bob Allamand was one of four spokespersons at the historic San Francisco Federal Building sit– in which sped up the long delayed first federal regulations guaranteeing rights for the disabled. It also precipitated the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Now streaming: “Crip Camp” is a poignant documentary masterpiece raising disability issues.

One of the truly blessed results of the streaming of media is that documentaries which would have been obscure, hard-to-find-and-get and soon forgotten are suddenly as accessible as all the dramatic, often dystopian, streaming series that fill peoples’ time.

Curiosity Stream is an excellent all documentary service featuring entrees on science, history, religion, etc., but the biggest breakthroughs come with the major “general audience” streaming services.

An example of this new reality is “Crip Camp”, with the Obamas as executive producers, which will introduce many to the wonderful humanity of heavily challenged humans growing at a remarkable camp with special playgrounds in the New England woods for over twenty years.

Some of its alumni became leaders of the Disability Rights Movement. The video documents well that modern disabled rights were fought for with dramatic actions, especially a 26 day sit-in at a San Francisco Federal Office building take-over, which spurred on long-stalled enforcement regulations on disability rights. This ultimately led to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Check out “Crip Camp” on Netflix here:
Bob’s biography from memorial service announcement:

Robert Clarence “Bob” Allamand

A memorial service will be held Sunday April 12, 2015 at noon at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Berkeley for Robert Clarence “Bob” Allamand, who led a remarkable life for over fifty years after being seriously disabled in a swimming accident at the age of 17 in which he broke his neck. He died at 68.

At his first evaluation for a rehab program he was told that he was so severely injured that there was little that could be done for the new quadriplegic other than to help him learn to adjust for a life time in nursing homes.

But by chance his Stanwood, Iowa family learned of another rehab facility which was headed by a medical director who himself was disabled and did not believe in giving up on people. Skilled rehab and training there, in Des Moines, enabled Bob to go on to acquire bachelor (English) and master’s (counseling) degrees (at the University of Nebraska, Omaha) and live a productive and fulfilling life. Among other things he learned to sign his name with his mouth and to drive an especially equipped van.

A lifetime friend from Stanwood, Pam Robinson said that Bob “was admired for his courage and would respond to his trials without anger or mourning but with faith and gratitude that someone pulled him from the water.”

He held counseling jobs in both Iowa and Berkeley and for over thirteen years he worked for the Civil Rights Division of the Federal Department of Health and Human Services. In that position, he checked out facilities in Western states, including Hawaii, to enforce compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. He also served on the City of Berkeley’s Disability Commission. He proudly participated in a famous sit in of the disabled at the SF Federal Building.

During his working years Bob had a second job which perfectly fit the field of dreams for an Iowan in a wheelchair: he became a greeter and enabler for disabled fans at Oakland A’s games. He also had a passion for reading, NASCAR and Willie Nelson and loved Lutheran hymnody.

He moved to Berkeley in 1978, along with a “quad” friend from Iowa, Bob Seeley, because they had heard of the nascent disability rights movement centered around the Center for Independent Living, and wanted to be part of it. Bob loved Berkeley, especially the bird life at the Marina and the resources of the Recreational Sports Facility at UC, but he always kept a strong home state allegiance, as well, thinking of himself as “Hawkeye Bob.”

With his disability Bob needed the daily assistance of attendants to help him cope with the essentials of living. Over the years, he had many, from over fifty countries of birth. Often these relationships resulted in friendships which were both remarkable and long lasting. Sometimes their families became part of his extended family.

He also maintained contact with many Iowa and Nebraska friends, especially in recent years through social media. Several of these plan to attend the celebration of his life.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Clarence and Dora Sievers Allamand. He is survived by two aunts and many cousins and their descendants.

It is suggested that memorial contributions be made to Easy Does It Emergency Services, a Berkeley agency which serves the disabled.

Bob was a long time member and elder at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, located at 3100 Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. The church is wheel chair accessible. Pastor Robert O’Sullivan will conduct the service.

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