Before Paul Longmore met any of his honorary “brothers” and “sisters” in the disability movement, he had Ellen Longmore Brown - both sister and ardent supporter - at his side. An American Baptist minister, Ellen has been crucial to the success of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability.
Ellen was five when Paul became disabled at age 7, and her early memories are hazy. However, she recalls that his amazing sense of humor developed AP (After Polio), as he’d previously been a shy child. Case in point: when a botched tracheotomy procedure left him with a hole in his neck, he told the neighborhood kids that he fell into the Grand Canyon and was saved by a tree branch that punctured his neck. Ellen believes, “The humor was something he had to develop because of how people reacted. It used to make me so mad as a child, I reacted with anger, he with humor.”
When Paul passed away, fortunately Ellen knew the importance of preserving Paul’s scholarship. She immediately supported SF State’s efforts to archive his papers and publish his magnum opus Telethons posthumously. She even arranged for all future royalties of Paul’s books to go to the Longmore Institute. She explains, “I wanted to see what he’d started continue, and I do what I can financially to support that too because it’s so important. It’s grown and blossomed beyond his imagination but I want to be sure that the work he started continued.”
Though she lives far away from the Longmore Institute in Pickerington, Ohio, she closely follows the Longmore Institute’s work. Seeing Telethons published was particularly significant for her. She shares, “The group that came together to use all their knowledge and resources to finish it, I don’t know how often that happens. I’ve always known the impact Paul had on people, but just to see that in action, and people saying this has to be done not only so that it can be written and read but also to honor Paul was a highlight for me, “ she chokes up, “Because he worked on it for 20 years. Every conversation we had he’d be talking about it. He used to say that he hoped Jerry Lewis died before the book was published or else he feared the Muscular Dystrophy Association mafia would come after him!”
When asked to describe why she values the Longmore Institute’s work, she felt that her answer brought out her “preacher-side.” She explains the impact in three ways:
The institute is celebrating disability when for so many years [disability] meant pity.... The Longmore Institute celebrates who people are, and people in the disability community might not have heard that before, especially when you look at movies coming out that show people with disabilities wanting to die. The Longmore Institute is also empowering … telling people that they do have a voice, and even though there are some that can’t talk for themselves, to know that someone else is doing it for them. That’s something Paul did that the Institute is carrying out. Lastly, educating the disability community about things that people might not be aware of, but also educating society. Your message needs to get out.
Ellen is grateful knowing that Paul’s work continues to make a difference. Please join the Longmore Institute and Ellen Longmore to take a moment to remember Paul on Sunday, July 10, which would have been his 70th birthday.