In 1968, Alan and Joyce Brigish had their first child. When Cy was diagnosed with Down syndrome, many people advised them to put him in an institution, then go on with their lives.
Against the prevailing wisdom of the day, the couple decided to keep their family together.
They spent years advocating for a child who was not like most others. They also offered him every opportunity to reach his potential educationally, socially and spiritually.
Every day there were challenges, frustrations and triumphs. While raising Cy — and her 2 other children, Hal and Jackie, in Westport — Joyce also worked for the inclusion of all people with disabilities.
She did it with patience, kindness, diligence and fortitude. In doing so, she helped change public sentiment concerning people who, historically, were marginalized.
STAR, Inc. Lighting the Way has long been a big part of Cy’s life. Established in 1952 by parents who believed that children with intellectual and developmental disabilities were entitled to the same basic opportunities as other children, today STAR is a not-for-profit organization with a full array of services for over 600 people from birth to their senior years — and for their families.
STAR helps those individuals live full lives with independence, freedom of choice and personal growth. Services include early intervention for infants and preschoolers; family support; job assessment and training; recreation and leisure activities, and support to adults in group homes and apartments.
The other day, Alan donated copies of a book to STAR. It’s called “Joyce’s Way: Finding Normality Despite Disability.”
Written by Susan Klein, it’s the story of his wife. Klein shows how Joyce and her family helped Cy reach his potential, while helping pioneer a new way of seeing people with disabilities.
Today, Cy — a star STAR client — works 2 jobs: at Garavel Chrysler Jeep and Panera Bread. He lives independently, and recently turned 50.
Joyce was not there that day. She died of cancer in 2016.
But her legacy of inclusion, advocacy and love remains. Now it lives on, in the pages of the book her husband donated to STAR, and which will be passed along, far and wide.