Woman lobbied for Medicare legislation
August 16, 2003
Deborah McKeithan, a nationwide advocate for the disabled, died Friday after a long illness, her family said. She was 49.
McKeithan founded the Handicapped Organized Women in 1979, and founded a similar support group for disabled men in 1987. The two merged to become Learning How Inc., a nationwide service group for the disabled, one year later.
President Reagan appointed McKeithan to the National Council on Disability; she is in the N.C. Women's Hall of Fame and had won many awards, including a 1986 Outstanding Young Woman of America award, according to a death notice put out by the family.
McKeithan, who was legally blind and had cerebral multiple sclerosis and epilepsy, was known for her persistence.
She spent much of her time lobbying Congress to allow disabled Medicare recipients to continue employment. That legislation was enacted in 1999 by President Clinton.
McKeithan, born in Shelbyville, Ky., lived in Charlotte's Elizabeth neighborhood for years before moving to Asheville, near her parents and brother.
She also resolved to always look her best.
"She flat dressed up and changed the image of disability," said Mary Olive Johnson, a friend of 20 years. "She was dressed to the nines every time she went out."
She is survived by her parents, Henry and Jan Crouch, of Asheville; siblings Tom Crouch, of Asheville, Sarah Crouch Tucker, of Macon, Ga., Rebecca Crouch Hobbs, of Milledgeville, Ga., and Bill Crouch, of Georgetown, Ky.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be sent to Operation
Learning How, P.O. Box 35481, Charlotte, NC 28235.
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