Judith Snow – In Memoriam

Our dear friend and faculty member Judith Snow passed away on the evening of May 31, 2015. Below is a letter from John McKnight to our faculty about Judith.

Dear Circle of Friends;

Jack Pearpoint of Inclusion Press made a moving slide show of Judith's life. It was shown at her memorial service. In some pictures you will see Mike Green and a guy with an absurdly outsized beard - that's me.

The cumulative effect of these pictures will lift your spirit and might change your life. Judith changed the direction of her life every four or five years in order to live her life at the fullest.

The doctors told Judith's parents she would never live to 30. In her joyous defiance, she lived to 65. And in memory of professional fallibility, her last year she said was her 35th. Each year a wonderfully productive bonus. Minutes before she had a heart attack, she was working on her computer. Blessedly, no long suffering death.

Judith was a lover. She loved hats, as you will see. She loved adventure and these pictures show her canoeing and going up a climbing wall. She loved the color pink. She loved elephants because the Hindu elephant God Ganesha is the breaker of barriers. Her rooms and the memorial service were filled with pictures of elephants. Indeed, she wanted to have an elephant lead a procession after the memorial service but her executor couldn't locate one.

She especially loved people born without the ability to speak. She sought to learn how to listen for their dreams and wrote a guide that we published some years ago.

She loved art and in her latter years changed her life once again and became an artist. Among the attached slides you will see pictures of the show of her paintings at the Toronto Museum of Art.

Judith loved change and politics. She was a member of the Communist Party of Canada.

Most of all, I think, she loved the possibilities in every single person. She was an advocate for dreaming. Dreams are the portal to freedom. She knew this because her magnificent life began with dreams and became real through courageous, tough, persistence.

I spent many hours,weeks and months with Judith. Only recently, I recognized that in our lives together we never discussed her physical condition. She never brought it up. Nor did I. We were friends and a friend is a person who loves you in spite of your negatives. We were too busy enjoying each other to fasten on limits. She wanted it that way. I think she was so illuminated by her dreams that she was fastened on learning how to fly. So she defied all risks.

Her wisdom and insight were incredible gifts to me, and to all of us. Among the slides you'll see a picture with her favorite advice - "You think too small".
So in her memory we can all think big about ABCD and its future. ABCD, after all, is the 50 of us, our gifts and our circle of friendship. Nothing is as powerful as what we have.

Judith is saying to us, "Remember to dream big, fly high - together."


Judith Snow had been called the “Julia Roberts of the disability community.” You could not be in her presence without experiencing a shift and seeing a new possibility for yourself and others. Powerful, energetic and joyful, her passion was matched only by her commitment. Her entire life was dedicated to making a difference for people all over the world.

Judith Snow was a trailblazer, having led training and education programs for over 30 years throughout the US, the UK, Europe, the Caribbean and Canada. Her models resulted in thousands of people with disabilities getting jobs, homes, new relationships and support systems that lead to full community participation and personal respect.

Working with her mother, Rita, in the 70’s, Judith was instrumental in the development of a model called Support Service Living Units. This service format has been widely adopted throughout North America. A little later she created Canada’s first post-secondary learning support program, enabling students with physical and intellectual disabilities to attend College and University and to excel academically and socially.

In 1980 she became Canada’s first person to receive individualized funding from the Government in Ontario. Shortly thereafter, she chaired the first ever attendant care action coalition, which caused the government to provide funding for 600+ people in the province of Ontario. Also during those years, she developed a model that puts government funding directly into the hands of the people who need the support. Since then some form of liberating individualized assistance has been adopted by most provinces for people with all sorts of disabilities.

In the 90’s Judith Snow focused primarily on training and education of families, individuals and human service providers. Judith wrote the book What’s Really Worth Doing and How To Do It co-authored From Behind the Piano with Jack Pearpoint, and had written many articles in various publications worldwide.

Judith Snow was a consultant and trainer with the National Home of your Own Alliance for eight years. This project operated in 23 states in the US, resulting in hundreds of people living in their own homes with their own support systems.

Judith Snow was a faculty member with the Asset-Based Community Development Institute. Along with John McKnight, Mike Green, Henry Moore and other members of this faculty this Institute fostered a fusion of community development and inclusion that allows citizens to benefit from diversity in grass root community settings internationally.

Over the last 10 years Judith Snow concentrated on the contributions of people who don’t speak. “If a 'quiet' kid’s really included, violence and drug use decline at their school. We need to start telling everywhere the real life stories of students with challenging disabilities who are positively, even dramatically, changing schools in North America and Europe,” she said.

In 2003 Judith developed Laser Eagles Art Guild adapting a technique invented by Tim Lefens that allows people with limited mobility to paint, and making it possible for these artists to fully integrate into local arts communities. She become a visual artist herself, with three showings of her own works.

Judith Snow showed people that there really is no disability: “People are always contributing something. The work is to see the value and potential in what they are contributing and build that through relationships into community and economic opportunities.”

Judith will be truly missed.

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