Ruth Marie Morris of Eugene, Ore., has belonged to People First since the 1960s. She is a member of the Community Advocacy Council for the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD)/ Center on Human Development at the University of Oregon for more than 10 years.
“She’s been a tremendous council member and has provided great feedback on our programs, activities, etc.,” said Jane Squires, director of the Center and a special education professor.
“I like her a lot and really appreciate her involvement.”
by RUTH MORRIS
I joined People First when Amanda Stone from the University of Oregon told me about it. She said I should join because I would like it, and she was right! ? I’m the treasurer of People First of Eugene. We don’t really have a state chapter anymore. Our chapter has about 50 members.
In People First, I learn what other people have to say. It’s a great social get-together. We have different activities like camping in September and sometimes day trips.
Our advisers are Larry Johnson, Joan South-Johnson, Clarence Townsend and Liz Thorin.
$300 in pledges
Our main fund-raiser is a bowlathon, where we get sponsors. One guy does it at his church, and he made over $300 in pledges.
We learn to stand up on our own two feet and speak up. We also learn to vote. If new members don’t know how to vote, we show them how.
Being a self-advocate means standing up on your two feet and talking for yourself and getting involved.
I’m involved with the Oregon Self Advocacy Coalition. I’m the vice president of the state organization.
Let me tell you a little about myself. I was born on April 30, 1942, in La Grande, Ore., to Virgil and Dorothy (Greenwood) Morris. They lived in Nebraska where they were from, and my Dad ran a filling station.
They had one boy but he died when he was a baby and is buried in Nebraska. Then they moved to Idaho and then to La Grande, and the doctors told them they wouldn’t be able to have more children, but they had my sister, Deanna, and me. Deanna died around 2000.
I still stay in touch with my niece, Glenda, my sister’s daughter, and occasionally another niece, Dorothy.
My sister also had two boys, Ken and Doug. Dorothy, her husband, and Ken came down to clean out our garage here in Springfield last year (but it sure don’t look like it!).
I attended La Grande junior high for a year and dropped out after that because it got too hard for me.
Then my mom found a guy who was teaching special education, and I got into that, and I graduated from special ed in the basement of the junior high.
I was in Fairview State Training Center from about 1952-1961 and then moved to Bend. I lived in the back of a nursing home where I worked. That’s where I met Richard and Robert, who were also working there. We had a nice boss at first but he sold the home to another guy who decided we didn’t need any time off because we needed to work. Nobody liked him.
Robert and Richard had moved to Oakridge near Eugene where their mom lived and then to the city of Eugene because they got a job working at the Pearl Buck workshop. They lived at Alvord Taylor House.
I was working in a nursing home in Portland and Robert kept writing to me telling me to move to Eugene. I decided to leave the nursing home with just a purse and one little suitcase. I walked down the street and found a cab and asked him to take me to Eugene, and he did, even though it’s over a hundred miles away!
I don’t remember who paid him, but it must’ve been Richard because he really wanted me to move to Eugene.
He and I got formally committed to each other quite a while after that.
I’m 71, and I’m retired, but I do get paid through our local service brokerage for taking care of my “husband” Richard. We’re not legally married because we’d lose our
benefits, but we have had commitment ceremonies twice, so it’s serious!
My job is taking care of Richard. I don’t have to go away from home, and it’s easy taking care of him.
Richard and I rent a home together, and we get support from Community Support Brokerage in Eugene. CSB helps people live in their own homes. For fun I like to go bowling. We also do bocce with Special Olympics. Richard and I came in second at state bocce in Newberg! We also like camping in summer.
We like to watch the Game Show Network and the Trailblazers basketball team when they’re on.
My favorite food is cheeseburgers. When we go bowling I always get a cheeseburger basket. They have good ones. My friends would say my best quality is my good humor and that’ I’m happy go lucky. And people might say, “That Ruth, she’s quite a person.”
I also belong to The Arc of Lane County and the Community Advocacy Council at the Universityof Oregon Center.