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Our Family is a Circle of Strength & Love

By: Alicia Klima

On July 27, 1956 Donald and Isabelle Markward gave birth to a beautiful baby boy by the name of Charles. Family calls him Charlie; but most of us call him Chuck. According to Isabelle, Chuck was a very good chubby baby boy. Just under a year earlier Chuck’s parents welcomed their first son Phillip to the family on July 20, 1955.

Around the age of two Chuck suffered his first seizure while he was asleep. After doctor appointments and consultations, the family learned that Chuck had suffered a prenatal injury of an unknown cause that had gone unnoticed. Around that same time, Chuck was also diagnosed with Aphasia which is the inability to produce language (spoken or written). Chuck did not say his first word until the age of 4 which was “mom”. The first ten to fifteen years of Chuck’s life was a trying time for the family of four. Chuck’s sleeping patterns were erratic and at times he would only sleep a total of 3 to 4 hours per night. The family also struggled with Chuck having outbursts because of his communication barriers. Chuck began to develop his “own version of sign language” through the use of gestures, pointing and facial expressions. His family being supportive and understanding did nothing else other than learn from Chuck! Isabelle worked hard to develop a communication book on Chuck’s unique style of communication. The purpose was to give those new working with Chuck an idea of how he expresses himself. It was a system created by Chuck, and the family worked together to make it known and available to others.

Don worked nights at a local factory while Isabelle worked during the day at Marimor Industries (Allen County Board of DD) as an administrative assistant. Don explained that they had to do what they could to get by as they did not have much other than each other. Don also shared that Isabelle ensured that Chuck, along with other individuals, got to Marimor because back at the beginning there was no transportation available. He said that Isabelle was so strong because day after day she drove on a major highway with those “rambunctious kids” while he did not even have the strength to walk to work. He shared that he worked from 1955 to 1992 and Isabelle worked from 1963 to 1990.

Don gives much credit to Isabelle as she was their “rock” and always did her best to ensure that Chuck was happy and lived a full life. Even though they knew he was “different” they did not want him to be judged solely on his disabilities. The Markward’s provided a home filled with unconditional love. Besides their jobs, their life was centered on Chuck and giving him a chance in life. Don and Isabelle were even told at one point to institutionalize Chuck and forget about him because of his disabilities.

I began working with Chuck and his family in January 2009. One thing that was evident early on was the unconditional love they had for each other. This was a mother and father that wanted nothing but the best for their sons, and there was nothing that was going to stand in their way. This family had a long history of conquering adversity! Don and Isabelle were advocates for Chuck and they never missed a team meeting. Isabelle carried a large binder to every single meeting. Her binder was “all about Chuck”.

Isabelle kept every single ‘service plan’ that was created over the years for Chuck. At the start of the meeting she would flip through hundreds of pages until she reached his current plan of service. She was very involved and definitely kept up on everything. Chuck’s mom and dad would always say such positive things about those that worked with Chuck. They were especially gracious and thankful for the staff that cared for Chuck at Cedar Home (Champaign Residential Service, Inc.) and they told staff this all the time. Chuck moved to Cedar on May 13, 1989. That year the Markward’s started a Christmas tradition at Cedar by bringing gifts and dinner for all the residents. They did this every year up until Isabelle became ill; however, Don stated that Phil, Chuck’s brother, continues this tradition. Don shared many memories about Special Olympics, Camp Robin Rogers, Marimor and Cedar. Don stated that, “In the beginning when these programs were just getting started no one knew what to do, but boy, did we all have so much fun trying to figure it out. It was all about the kids!”

Due to medical issues Isabelle was unable to be as involved in Chuck’s meetings during the past couple of years. At this time Don, without any hesitation, stepped right in. The love that he has for Chuck is evident each time they are reunited. Visits typically start off with a hug and kiss from dad. And he never forgets a hard piece of candy. Chuck likes this candy! Don has a big heart and has never been afraid to shed a tear or two for the love of his family.

I cannot write a story on the Markward family without talking about Phil and his wife, Mary. Thus far, I have only met him on one occasion which sadly was at the funeral visitation for Isabelle. Over the years I have heard so many positive things about Phil and his wife and the fact that he is always there when he is needed. Even though he now lives in Florida the distance has never stopped him. At the funeral home he said to me, after giving me a hug, “I plan to be more involved than I have been”. This is a great tribute to his parents’ commitment. Don also shared a photo of Chuck and Phil when they were young. The love between brothers is so clear in this photo and Don told me that this was one of his most prized possessions!

Lastly, Isabelle was a long time employee of the Board of DD (beginning before the Board was even formed). Those who knew her have fond memories of her dedication and support to those with disabilities. In 1982 Isabelle’s coworkers at Marimor nominated her for ‘Mother of the Year’ with the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities. She won this honor for Allen County and was presented with a plaque from Governor James Rhodes. Sadly, Isabelle passed away on May 11, 2016.

The Markward family has kindly donated a beautiful wooden wall hanging carved with the saying “Our Family is a Circle of Strength & Love” which is now hanging in the lobby of Marimor Industries. A plaque commemorating Isabelle’s years of service is also displayed. In addition, there were several other cash donations made in Isabelle’s honor. Marimor Industries is very grateful for these donations that can be used for the betterment of services to individuals with disabilities.

The Markward Family are very remarkable people and we are glad we can TELL THEIR STORY! #acbdd #whatsyourstory


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