Memories of Michael: Dad and Mike at Willowbrook (1962)

My brother Mike went away to Willowbrook, a large mental institution (6000 residents) on Staten Island in New York State, USA. If you search for ‘Willowbrook’ and ‘atrocities’ on the internet, you will get more than 45,000 hits. The horrors were exposed in 1972 after which, New York State took actions that addressed the conditions. Of all incidents of abuse that happened, the most egregious, in my opinion, was the deliberate infecting of the mentally ill patients in one ward, with hepatitis.

Most parents had no idea what was happening at Willowbrook, except for the occasional phone call of one incident of harm or another. One of those called announced that Mike got his teeth knocked out (by another resident – of course). Just as my parents had just an inkling of the poor conditions, they had little choice. There were very few options to take care of the severely mentally ill in the early 1960s. Mike was not forgotten though. We visited him quite frequently.

New York State shut down Willowbrook, but this took many years. Mike was eventually placed in a group home in the late 1980s.

I think I took this shot of Dad bringing Mike out of his building, on one of our visits.

Memories of Michael: Dad and Mike at Willowbrook (1962)
Dad and Mike at Willowbrook (1962)
Memories of Michael

Memories of Michael: Early Memories – Exhausted Mom (1960)

I guess Dad took this picture. I am the one on the right, Dave, my little brother is on Mom’s right, and Mike is to the far left, in the photo. Not sure why Dad only got half of him. Mom looks utterly exhausted.

I think I took the picture of the three pumpkins, with my brownie camera. Mine is the only one with a frown. More photos from that season can be found on this link..

Memories of Michael: Early Memories - Exhausted Mom (1960)
Early Memories – Exhausted Mom (1960)
Memories of Michaelear

Memories of Michael: Nice Picture of Mike and Me (1994)

I haven’t seen this photo in many years. It’s nice to have a memory of Mike* seeming to enjoy himself. I can imagine that we interacted.

Memories of Michael: Nice Picture of Mike and Me (1994)
Nice Picture of Mike and Me (1994)
Memories of Michael

*Mike was my older brother, autistic, low functioning and nonverbal. He passed away last month.

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