February 2020 Spectrum
On January 22, 2020 we lost a great man, a true leader, a wonderful father, grandfather, husband, brother, mentor, community member, and friend to many. Maurice knew no strangers, it seems he knew everyone, and everyone knew Maurice!
Working with a group of parents in the early 1970’s, Maurice took a leap of faith and moved to Hutchinson to open what was then, The Reno County Occupational Center (now known as TECH). In 1973 the center opened with $30,000, 6 clients, 5 staff and a huge guardian angel on Maurice’s shoulder, he was our leader, our founder. He was also the bus driver, the direct support staff worker, the custodian, the fundraiser, the spokesman, he was whatever was needed at the time. He had no road map to follow, no directions on how to build a successful organization to serve people with disabilities, there was no recipe book, and there was no google! It was through pure determination, passion for people and equal justice for all people that Maurice set the foundation for the organization that would become TECH.
Maurice met with families to talk about what they wanted for their young children and their adult children. He met with people with disabilities, and asked them, “What do you want out of life? Where do you want to live? What is important to you?”, and most importantly, Maurice listened! For the next 27 years Maurice facilitated people with disabilities moving from state institutions back into the community to be closer to their families, he offered assurances and hope for families who had a loved one with a disability living at home that they could be successful staying in the community, living, working and playing. He built group homes, opened a small apartment complex, and rented houses and apartments for the people TECH served to live in with all levels of support. He created a work center to offer employment and training opportunities for people with disabilities. Maurice met with community businesses to promote the hiring of an underused work force in our community, he created jobs for people with disabilities and showed the community the value of people with disabilities! Maurice created opportunity for families with the youngest and tiniest babies born with disabilities to have early intervention services with what is now known as the Early Education Center. He worked with local and state officials to create funding streams for the services TECH was offering. He developed fundraising events to help cover the costs of services TECH was providing for people with disabilities in our community. Regardless of what Maurice was doing during his 27 years with TECH, he always put the people with disabilities served by TECH as his number one priority.
The passion Maurice had for people with disabilities didn’t stop when he retired in 1999. For the next 21 years Maurice remained a true advocate for people with disabilties, he was an avid supporter of TECH, a volunteer at almost every single event, and had been an active honorary TECH Foundation Board Member up until his death. It was not unusual to see Maurice around TECH after his retirement. Many of the people we serve remembered him, and greeted him by name, to which he would respond “Hey pal, how are you doing?” After all, everyone at TECH was considered a friend by Maurice.
I considered Maurice one of my dearest friends and he was one of my biggest cheerleaders. We saw each other often and I would seek his advice when difficult situations would arise. We would talk through whatever situation was at hand and he would always end the conversation with, “You will make the right decision, you know what needs to be done.” During one of the last conversations I had with Maurice he told me how proud he was of me and the work being done at TECH. I cried, and he wiped away my tears. I told him, “I learned from the best, I learned so much from you.” I vowed to Maurice that I would continue to work towards his vision of a future where all people are treated with dignity and respect.
As I watched Maurice draw his last breath while praying the Rosary with members of his family, a peace fell over the room and we all knew he was gone. Maurice’s Legacy will forever live on in the people we serve, in what he created, and what he stood for.
You will be missed, Maurice.