Bob Huskey: An Inspiring Story of Perseverance and Commitment

7, September 2010

Bob has seen dramatic improvements for people with disabilities during his 54 years as a quadriplegic





Bob has an impressive record as a leader advocating for changes so that people with disabilities can be active and productive members of the community. He currently is chair of the Paraquad board of directors where he has been a board member for four years. In 2009, Bob received a national award from the Paralyzed Veterans of America for his achievements.

Bob’s story is one of courage. Of commitment. Of perseverance. And of incredible achievement.


Here is Bob’s story:

Bob was injured on August 11, 1956, at the age of 21 while stationed in New Jersey with the Army Signal Corp. A group of friends went to the shore that afternoon, and while swimming, Bob became tangled up in a strong wave and broke his neck.

At that time there wasn’t therapy for quadriplegics; most died.

For the first few weeks after the injury the Army kept him on base in a clinic. He was then transferred to Walter Reed Army Hospital. On Thanksgiving of 1956, Bob was transferred to a center for spinal cord injury in Memphis where he stayed for a year.

When a traumatic event happens to an individual, it happens to the whole family. I had a very supportive family.

Bob moved back to his family farm outside Crystal City, Missouri, where he stayed for a few years until he was able to live on his own. The Huskeys lived in an older farmhouse that was surprisingly easy to modify for accessibility. Bob stayed on the first floor, and a ramp was designed for the one stair. A bathroom was built on the ground floor that could accommodate Bob’s wheelchair. His parents provided his care.

Some supports were there, but society wasn’t.

In 1959, Bob enrolled in Southern Illinois University at Carbondale where he pursued a degree in speech pathology. The university at first didn’t admit him, but he kept appealing until he was accepted for enrollment. Bob hired Huey, a football player, to be his attendant. Huey was about to fail out of school and Bob needed a hand. They exchanged personal attendant services for tutoring.

During his studies, Bob married his wife Beatrice, a fellow speech pathology student. Bea had been a neighbor during his childhood. “This was the most important decision of my life.”

Rule of thumb: I had to have one thing better than the other candidate.

In 1962, new SIU graduates Bob and Beatrice applied for positions at the recently formed Special School District. Beatrice was offered a position and insisted, “You have to take him as well.” Both people conducting the interview were forward thinking and agreed.

By 1970, Bob was the department head of the speech pathology and audiology department. At that time, the Special School District was divided into departments by disability. In 1980, Bob was overseeing all the district curriculum and vocational preparation as associate superintendent.


At the time of my injury, medical options for quadriplegics were pretty primitive. All the other quads in the ward died except for two. I was initially told that I would have a year, and at the end of each year that I would live another year.