Randy L Francka – 1958-2011
In 1979, the life of Randy L. Francka changed forever. He became a person with a disability experiencing a spinal cord injury and quadriplegia after an auto accident.
“When you consider why independent living was so important to Randy, it meant the difference between existing and truly living,” says long-time friend Franklin Nease.
Randy took charge of his life because he wanted to continue to live in the community, near his friends and family instead of a nursing home. The disability affected his mobility but not his mind. Therefore, he chose to take control and not only advocate for himself, but other people with disabilities throughout the rest of his life.
“An early Board Member to the Southwest Center for Independent Living (SCIL), Randy served to ensure that people with disabilities have the choice to live independently,” says Nease. “He helped with the evolution of SCIL. From the late 1980’s when it was in a small house in downtown Springfield to where he lived to see it become a big part of the disability community.”
Most remember Randy’s great sense of humor and flirty personality. Despite the challenges that his disability presented each day, his determination to remain independent helped him be a positive role model and peer mentor for people with disabilities.
“Randy shared a story with me once about how he left a store and found his accessible van blocked in by a motorcycle,” recalls Kristi Dieleman, SCIL CDS Specialist. “He could not leave. He waited for the owner to return and rather than shouting or being angry Randy reasoned with the man and explained that his wheelchair and disability shouldn’t mean he didn’t need to be somewhere.” Randy proved many times that self-advocacy can make a difference.
In the 1990’s, Randy became one of the first individuals to receive Missouri personal care services. Because of the significance of his disability and care needs, he realized the importance of funding continuum for these programs and the availability of choices for other people with disabilities.
Successfully managing his own care for nearly two decades is quite an accomplishment. Randy was able to hire his choice of personal care attendants to help remain independent. He graduated first at Oral Roberts College in 1988 with a BA in Accounting and later studied at Missouri State University for his Masters in English in 2000 with a focus in Nineteenth Century American Literature. He became a teacher with Ozarks Technical Community College and retired in 2008.
“He didn’t let anything stop him!” remembers Paula Green, who worked with Randy through SCIL. “The accident changed his life and allowed him to return to college and make a career. What better way to teach independence for people with disabilities, than to live independently and work as a teacher. He touched so many lives.”
In addition, Randy was a strong self-advocate who made calls to elected officials to protect state-funded programs. Throughout the years, he wrote letters and spoke to educate people on why people with disabilities need the freedom to choose how they want to live.
“The doctor saved my life, but my attendants allowed me to truly live,” said Randy in a grant proposal to secure research dollars to support spinal cord injury research and training.
Some of his favorite quotes portray the kind of man he was and the life he lived:
“Try not to become a man of success but rather a man of value.” ~ Albert Einstein
“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
“My candle burns at both ends; It will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends- It gives a wonderful light!” ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay
The Southwest Center for Independent Living (SCIL) recognizes people of the Ozarks with disabilities for their past and present efforts to ensure that people with disabilities have the choice to live independently in the community. Nominations can be submitted anytime and will be considered in these categories: advocacy, community service, peer mentoring, positive role model, determination, and leadership in the community. A new honoree is announced in each bimonthly newsletter issue and a photo of the nominee will be displayed on the “Honoring People with Disabilities Wall” at the Springfield office.
Contact us for a nomination form or visit Honoring People with Disabilities.