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Edythe Ibold, pioneer advocate for the retarded, dies

She spearheaded the effort in the 1950s for the school district to educate retarded children.

By CRAIG BASSE, Times Obituaries Editor

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 23, 2002


She spearheaded the effort in the 1950s for the school district to educate retarded children.

ST. PETERSBURG -- Edythe Ibold, a key organizer of the Pinellas Association for Retarded Children and its first president, has died at 90.

Mrs. Ibold, a resident of Ponte Vedra Beach for the past four years, died Thursday (March 21, 2002) at Baptist Beaches Hospital in Jacksonville Beach. She had a stroke Monday, said her daughter, Barbara Buffetta.

A St. Petersburg resident for more than a half century, she is credited by PARC with starting the local movement in December 1952 with a notice in the St. Petersburg Times.

It invited fellow parents of retarded children to meet to discuss common problems.

At that time, "the situation was far different than it is today," Mrs. Ibold said in 1983 in an interview that appeared in a PARC tribute to the group's pioneers. "Nothing, figuratively speaking, was being done for the retarded children in Pinellas County" such as her daughter, Midge, who was born with Down's syndrome.

For help, she had turned to a friend, Floyd Christian, then superintendent of Pinellas County schools.

"It took me three weeks to get the nerve to call him," Mrs. Ibold said in 1993 as PARC celebrated its 40th anniversary. Even then, she approached him on behalf of "'a friend' (because) nobody admitted they had a retarded child back then."

Christian's words remained imprinted in her mind: "I am prevented by law to provide education for these children," she said he told her.

Later, she found that he was misinformed: Education for retarded children was offered at the option of the local school superintendent.

Drawn by the newspaper announcement, 20 parents of mentally retarded children got together and decided to act. In April 1953, PARC was chartered.

The following September, Hiatt Hall opened with 13 children. The Pinellas County School Board furnished the building and a teacher.

"PARC, with 23 programs, currently serves more than 500 children and adults each day in the St. Petersburg area," PARC's president and chief executive officer, Curt Thomas, said in a statement Friday. "In 2002, we see that Edythe's dream of including persons with disabilities in everyday life came to fruition."

Mrs. Ibold, a Cincinnati native and graduate of the University of Cincinnati, was a charter member of the Florida Council for Retarded Children and a former director of the Florida Association for Mental Health. She served on the advisory board of the Salvation Army and the American Stage board of trustees.

Her husband of 39 years, Robert A., died in 1975. Survivors include two sons, Robert A. Jr., Lancaster, Pa., and E. Douglas Ibold, Burbank, Calif.; two daughters, Barbara Ibold Buffetta, Jacksonville, and Janet Louise "Midge" Ibold, St. Augustine; five grandchildren; and two great grandchildren.

A memorial service will be at 1 p.m. April 6 at Lakewood United Church of Christ, 2601 54th Ave. S. National Cremation Society, Jacksonville, is in charge of arrangements.

The family suggests memorial contributions to PARC, 3190 Tyrone Blvd., St. Petersburg, FL 33710; American Stage, 211 Third St. S, St. Petersburg, FL 33701; or Abilities Inc., 2735 Whitney Road, Clearwater, FL 33760.

-- Information from Times files was used in this obituary.

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