Jim Tuscher, 72, was longtime advocate for disabled, Paraquad leader

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Jim Tuscher, an advocate who lobbied for Missouri’s disabled and vice president of public policy for Paraquad, died Tuesday, March 11 from heart failure. He was 72 and a resident of St. Louis.

Mr. Tuscher was one of the original staff members of Paraquad, a St. Louis organization that helps people with disabilities to be able to live independently. He worked with the late Max Starkloff, Paraquad’s founder, back in the 1970s in forming Paraquad. Mr. Tuscher became a paraplegic in his mid-20s as a result of a spinal tumor, which inspired him not only to strive to live independently but to help others with disabilities to do so. He retired at the end of 2010.

According to his daughter, Danielle Tuscher of Denver, Colo., Mr. Tuscher lived independently through December in his condo in the Central West End. She said it was important to her father to be “a participatory member of the community.”

Mr. Tuscher was born on Dec. 18, 1938 in Lyons, N.Y., where he grew up on a dairy farm. After graduating from Lyons High School in 1957, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education from SUNY Brockport in 1965. He was a teacher in Greece, New York from 1965-67, and completed his graduate work at the University of Missouri, Columbia in 1969. He was a college counselor at Forest Park Community College from 1969-77. Mr. Tuscher advocated tirelessly at the state level for the rights of the disabled. He was instrumental in securing funding to bring 22 Centers for Independent Living to Missouri and supported other disability rights advocates nationally and in Japan and Germany. He also lobbied for a consumer-controlled personal care program funded through Vocational Rehabilitation, which has grown to assist over 10,000 people with disabilities. He also helped pass absentee voting laws that greatly increased the ease and access to absentee voting for people with disabilities.

At the national level, he was Missouri’s field leader in advocating passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and was on the White House lawn when it was signed in 1990. He served on the Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities through three administrations. Survivors, include his daughter, Danielle Tuscher of Denver, Colo. and granddaughter, Mesha Tuscher and family friend Kirsten Dunham. A community memorial service held as a celebration of Mr. Tuscher’s “exuberant and active life” is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday, March 10, at Central Reform Congregation, 5020 Waterman Boulevard.

Memorial contributions may be made to Paraquad, 5420 Oakland Street, St. Louis, Mo. 63110.