Brother's Heartfelt Words Nearly 68 Years after Parents Told Son with Down Syndrome Won't Survive


“I’m writing this in honor of my brother, Robert, who was born with Down Syndrome back in 1950, when children with the syndrome weren’t expected to live much beyond their teens.

According to my father, in a written record he left that I found after he died, Robert was ‘the most beautiful infant I had ever seen.’

But during the two years after Robert’s birth, no doctor could or would give my parents a definitive diagnosis. They finally found a doctor in north Philadelphia who agreed to see them.

Dad said when they went into the doctor’s office he was on the phone, arguing with somebody, then slammed down the phone and turned his attention to them.

He looked over some papers on his desk, then looked at my father and asked ‘Do you think he looks like you?’ My father said ‘Not really.’

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He then asked my mother the same question. Her response was the same. He informed them that ‘what you have here is what is commonly known as Mongoloid…he will probably not live beyond his teens.’

Photo Courtesy of Fred Andersen

Ultimately my parents decided, against the prevailing wisdom that told them to institutionalize Robert and, in effect, forget about him, to keep him home with them. Over the ensuing years Robert lived with my half-sister in West Virginia for a time, then in a series of private “schools” where he learned to take care of himself – wash, dress himself, etc.

Eventually these places proved too expensive for my parents and they were forced to send him to what is now known as the New Lisbon Developmental Center.

Then, in the ’70s my parents sold the restaurant they had been running for the last quarter century, my dad obtained his GED and went to what was then Glassboro State Teacher’s College, now Rowan University, in New Jersey.

He got his certificate in special education and was hired at a local facility for people with developmental disabilities in Haddonfield, NJ (our hometown) where he worked for the following 12 years, what he called the happiest years of his life.

Photo Courtesy of Fred Andersen

As a result of his association there Robert was able to be placed in a newly-established group home nearby, where he lived for over 30 years, until medical problems caused him to eventually move to a medical group home near Trenton, where he is now.

Robert has always been a light in our lives and the lives of everyone who meets him. The group home manager at his first home always said ‘If anyone’s guaranteed to go to heaven, it’s Robert.’

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Though he was never mentally capable of learning to really read or write – beyond printing his name and recognizing words like Happy Birthday or Merry Christmas – he was always a happy boy (and man), grateful for everything you do for him and always smiling.

He’ll be 68 years old this August, which certainly defies the odds given to him at his birth. He’s been a gift to our family and at this point is my only remaining sibling, which makes him doubly dear.

Thanks for the opportunity to share our story … God bless!”

This story was submitted by Liftable reader Fred Andersen.  Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best uplifting stories here.

Fred, thank you for sharing your heartwarming story! It sounds like Robert has made a tremendous impact in each and every one of the lives he’s touched.

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