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Franz Stillfried (1960-1988)

Franz Stillfried, ca. 1988
Franz Stillfried, ca. 1988

Name:  Stillfried, Franz

Date:  ca. 1988

Image Number:  FranzStillfried1988

Comments:  Franz Stillfried, whose parents, Dominick and Elko Stillfried, ran a dairy farm at Snowden and later at Scottland Farm, was born with a genetic disorder known as brittle bone disease (osteogenesis imperfecta).  This stunted his growth and meant that his bones would break easily, a defect that eventually killed him.

Franz was a lively, intelligent, and amusing person, who was determined to live his life as independently as possible.  He graduated from St. Andrews Presbyterian College in 1982 where he majored in politics and earned the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for his unselfish service to others.  Back in Virginia, he started a graduate program in international relations at the Umiversithy of Virginia, where he was frustrated by the University's inaccessability for disabled students and staff.

He was one of the organizers of the Independence Resource Center of Charlottesville in the 1980's, where he served on the board and as advocacy director.  Long before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, he pushed the city to establish a goal of making 10% of its housing stock accessible for people with disabilities.  He also advocated 100% accessibility in the public transit system, and Charlottesville was one of the first cities to achieve that goal.

The Independent Resource Center remembers Franz today as one who "through the boundless enthusiasm and energy became the embodiment of our ideals and principles...he championed access and fought discrimination on local, state, and national levels, and gained recognition as a key spokesperson on issues regarding disability rights."

He drove a van which was modified for his needs and used a wheelchair to get around.  His tragic death in 1988 was the result of an accident when he was on his way to a meeting with University officials to discuss improving accessibility at University Hall.  The lack of a curb cut forced him to follow a path through the wet grass.  His wheelchair slipped and tumbled over an embankment, killing him instantly.  The ravine where he died is now the site of John Paul Jones Arena.  Various improvements followed at the University including a road near the Orthopedic center on Ivy Road, named Stillfried Lane.

Remembering Franz, Bonnie O'Day of the Endependence Center of Norfolk, VA, said: "We all saw him as not only a leader of tomorrow but a true advocate and teacher of today...He was also a real expert on building codes.  I remember with a smile when I called him to inquire if a certain hotel in Charlottesville was accessible, looking for a yes or no answer.  I got thirty minutes of information on bathrooms, doorknobs, swimming pools, lounges, and restaurants.  We must give ourselves time to grieve Franz's loss, but then we must carry on to continue to fight for the changes Franz dreamed about."

Thanks to Tom Vandever of the Independence Resource Center of Charlottesville!

Evelyn Edson, President
Scottsville Museum

Copyright © 2023 by Scottsville Museum

Above image and information is courtesy of Tom Vandever of the Independence Resource Center of Charlottesville.  Thank you so much!




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