Dick Bartus, An Unforgettable and Inspiring Speech

Richard J. Bartus was a longtime friend, volunteer, advisor and parent at New Horizons. In 2010, we were honored to present him with the Fredrick J. Weitkamp Service Award in recognition of his years of pioneering leadership to benefit thousands of individuals with developmental disabilities.

Though Dick Bartus is no longer with us, below is his acceptance speech, which we are proud to share with you again because it is both meaningful and timeless.

As Only They Can

Written by Dick Bartus, 2010

It hardly seems appropriate to be given an award for doing volunteer work for an organization which in itself is so rewarding.  As a parent, a father of a daughter who has benefited tremendously from the work of organizations like New Horizons, it’s hard to imagine life without these organizations.

My daughter Laura is now fifty-two years old, so I have been involved and working with these special people for a long time.  There have been times in the past when I ask Why? Mind you not Why me? But Why Laura?  Why Cee-Cee and Dee-Dee and Cathy and Troy? Why so many? What is the purpose of our special people and why are they here? A few years ago, I unexpectedly found an answer to this question.

In working with one of our organizations with my wife, Alaine, we met the Hawthorns, a very dedicated family. Russ, Judy and their son Robbie, who was developmentally disabled and was the same age as our Laura always seemed to be on high energy pills.  Tall, gangly and all arms and legs, Robbie was everywhere and into everything all the time.

One morning Robbie was on his school bus on the way to his day program when the bus was involved in a terrible head-on crash with an automobile and Robbie died that morning. Tragic, horrible and completely unexpected this was a terrible and heartbreaking loss of someone much too young. Alaine and I attended Robbie’s memorial service.

Over 400 people attended for a standing room only turnout. One after the other people stepped to the front to tell of their wonderful experiences with Robbie and how he reached and touched their hearts in a personal way. Here this awkward gangly kid who was all over the place all the time had made a huge impact on so many lives in such a short period of time.

Standing in the back of the Chapel I got my answer to “Why,” Why are they here.  They are each here to teach us in their own special way, as Robbie did… as only they can. To teach us about our lives and about life and what it means… as only they can.  They show us what is important and what life can be and should be… as only they can.  No, God does not make many mistakes. They have a very real purpose in life and have a tremendous amount of work to do… as only they can.

There is a lot for all of us to learn and many special people to teach us… as only they can. 

Thank you for this very wonderful award, I am truly honored. Volunteer to work with these very special people and you too will be rewarded as I have been.

Dick and Alaine Bartus
at another NH Gala.