Friday, October 03, 2008

Willowbrook State School--A Lesson For Humanity

Greetings All~

Welcome to a brief history of the Willowbrook State School, which includes a short story about one former resident's experience--my mother.

Although, Willowbrook has been closed for more than 20 years, it's presence lives on for those who have lived and worked there and for their families as well. Their stories and experiences are valued.

All comments are welcomed, especially personal experiences. Please feel free to post comments directly on the blog or if you like, you can contact me directly at Please put Willowbrook in the subject line.

Best Regards,
Vanessa Leigh DeBello


Hayden said...

Vanessa my name is hayden i work for skills inc. of central pennsylvania. i was doing a training at work and they showed a video of how so much has changed in the mental health industry since this institution (or so called school shut down) i was trying to find more information about the willowbrook state school if you know of anywhere that i can go to get more information please email me (anyone). i think it is very sad and sickening what they put these guys through (meaning your mother and the actual mental health clients) so please get back to me my email is

thank you so much

Anonymous said...

As a boy my mother took us fishing there at the pond on the Willowbrook grounds. One day while I was fishing saw an man kill a women in the parking lot. Police told me later that he was in the hospital and the lady was his doctor. He stabbed her many times with scissors. this was in the mid 1950's. I was told not to speak of it again by the police and my parents.

Anonymous said...

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Hillary said...

As a 12 year old child, c1964, my father, an opthamologist took my sister and I to the school while he did eye exams on the children. Specifically Tay-Sachs children laying in bean bag chairs. I will never forget these poor children with hydrocephalis. My father never spoke about the school, but I will never get the pictures out of my mind.

kjean said...

I recently discovered the site about Willowbrook and was deeply moved. I worked at an institution for the developmentally disabled out of college and also spent time at an institution for the mentally ill while I was a teenager.I have written poems and short stories, but want to be able to write about my experiences as a survivor of and an employee of an institution. have you written more about Willowbrook? I was very touched by the story about your mother.

Lulu said...

willowbrook!Hello my name is Louann Schiavone I was a volenteer in willowbrook for several yrs with some friends and we did a one to one concert in central park to help Mr. Rivera in the struggle to close down the school.My memories are vivid and I have been impressed my whole life by that experience feel free to email me at looking forward to knowing how some of those ppl turned around!so Happy to have found this site!

sharon reagan said...

hi how are you doing today. I have no idea where I what to screen
and I am very mortified I wood believe you wood say by the wording that in J/19/60 the docs told my mom that it wood be a lot better if she put me in to willowbrook state
and I have to say I am so if she was alive I wood kiss her feet for the courage that it took to be seen with a disabled child and teach me how to talk and a lot more stuff and yes I was in the emr class and just put puzzles together up until I was in my 12 grade graduate do to a non credited privet school I only grad with a certificate so really to make a long story short I did not feel good with just the certificate of completion I ask my mom if I could try home correspondents high school diploma 3 years later I get my diploma then 5 years later I ask my mom if she could help me pay for a collage degree and 4 years I did it I am so glad I had wins behind me and she was so white on that I had the fire drive in me that I preserver with that she did not put me there and so she and her brother got all the specialist to teach me how to eat with my hands not with my feet more docs to teach how to walk and so on ill stop here god that to me would have been a night mere to say the least I saw the documentary oh man pl write back I may be 54 but because what I have been thou and your story I would really like to chat with you one day be cause I wont to write a biography about how children like use to let them know that thy can do things if thy preserver
well I am going to stop here I am getting tired , sharon reagan