Born Fabulous

Part 4, Interview with Steve and Laura Riggio - Melissa's Place in History Books

April 18, 2019 Season 1 Episode 4
Born Fabulous
Part 4, Interview with Steve and Laura Riggio - Melissa's Place in History Books
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Born Fabulous
Part 4, Interview with Steve and Laura Riggio - Melissa's Place in History Books
Apr 18, 2019 Season 1 Episode 4
Greta Harrison, Steve Riggio, Laura Riggio
Steve and Laura Riggio discuss their daughter Melissa's place in history books, her writing, and advice for young parents.
Show Notes Transcript

The last part of a conversation with Steve Riggio, former CEO of Barnes & Noble, and his wife Laura, a retired educator, about the fascinating life of their daughter Melissa. Melissa was a published author, self-advocate, and role model. She happened to have Down syndrome. Melissa passed away in 2008 at age 20. The Riggios discuss Melissa's place in history books, more about her writing, and advice for young parents. Melissa's spirit and legacy live on in many ways, thanks to her drive, and her family's dedication to keep improving the lives of so many. 



Speaker 1:
0:00
Okay. Okay. Hello, my name is Gretta Harrison. Welcome to born fabulous. The podcast where we speak with parents, families, and accomplished individuals who just happen to have disabilities. You are about to hear part for the last in our series with Steve and Laura Regio. They are the parents and Melissa Regio, a shining star who accomplished more in her 20 years, the many doing a much longer lifetime. She was a published author and wrote the lyrics to two beautiful songs you hear at the beginning and end of this podcast. She started a social group for her peers. She had the same dreams as her siblings and she wanted to drive, go to college, get married and have children. She wanted a life like yours. Melissa had leukemia and was taken from us too soon in 2008 but she graduated from high school fully included and received her diploma. She was and continues to be a role model for many, including my family. The regio family continues her legacy. My family and many others are eternally grateful to them.
Speaker 1:
1:49
Can you tell me about the nice surprise that you got from South Korea? Yeah. Steve One day at work received an envelope with a, a letter from a school teacher in South Korea and all pictures and letters from their students. And it said that, you know, we read about your daughter in some textbooks they have, she's located after, I think it was a coven. I don't know who the other one was, but she was like in the middle. And, um, you know, our students were so amazed by her life and all her accomplishments, they want to, you know, send these letters. And so Steve brought them home. We read them all. They had drew drew pictures of her, of the pictures they had seen of her, of our family and uh, said was wonderful parents. We were, um, they were amazed at the debt kind of dad that Steve was, that he really helped Melissa attained her dreams.
Speaker 1:
2:49
Um, and that in Korea it's not, it wasn't like that a lot of the children, it's like going back in time were kept at home or an expected to go to school. And so these kids just so grateful and so excited that, um, that in their country people would change their attitudes after reading this article and seeing all the things that Melissa, um, you know, accomplished. And so I, after we finish reading them, just looked up and said, Melissa, rest, you're working over time. Like it's just amazing to me that we never even knew that she's in a book. You know, that these people like around the world would read about her and then being moved enough to write and draw that like draw pictures of her. It just was like amazing. That is amazing. When did that happen? That was about how to be more than five years ago.
Speaker 1:
3:46
I mean, we still have the envelope with the pictures, so maybe it's stated, but I think it's at least five years ago, just out of the blue, the blue. It was just amazing. She lives on, she lives on. Thank you. Thank you. That's wonderful. Tell me, what do you think about the state of the disability world today? Well, I feel like there's, you know, we've done a lot of work, but there's a lot more that needs to be done. And I think I would hope and ask all young parents signing out to pick up the torch and kind of make their mark Mark's and make more inroads for people with disabilities. I think we can't stay still, you know, we need to keep going. Uh, and we need not just people whose kids are grown at the forefront. We need young parents. I can come in with like new ideas, new dreams, um, you know, to, to leave their mark for their children and for the other children to come.
Speaker 1:
4:52
And there's one question that I want, I'm going to be backtracking here, but I, I would be remiss if I didn't ask this because one of Melissa's greatest gifts was her writing. And you've touched on that so eloquently. I want to ask about how that was fostered in school. I reached out to you many years ago and asked that question because I know in my daughter's case, expressing herself in writing is hard for her. It's the, it's actually the hardest thing for her. Um, she can do Algebra and geometry, but that is, is more difficult for her and it's been like that for many years. So I remember reaching out to you and asking you about the years when she was in school and how the teachers fostered that. Could you address that? I mean, she always, I don't know. I mean she, in the beginning of the year, she kind of road as they had assignments to do what, you know, write a paragraph about this, you know, one time she had her write about like your dad or someone admire and she wrote about Steve. Um, you know, I think Melissa wrote phonetically, I mean most a lot of the words she knew how to spell, but if she didn't know how to sell, then she smelled it the way she heard it. Um, and that never stopped her any, the teachers allowed that. In other words, like she wasn't, maybe she was corrected when you did the final copy, but they accepted that. Um, and so she always just felt free to write. I really don't know what to tell you. She just always loved to write, especially in her teenage years.
Speaker 2:
6:32
I think she was born with it. Like anyone. I don't think it was anything that was taught to her. I think she was born with an ability to, uh, express deeply felt emotions and dreams. So, uh, like any writer, it comes from a place that some have in some donuts. She had it and I'm sure that if we hadn't lost her, um, it would have been nurtured. And again, I say to Pete, Townson told me, um, you have to nurture this because it's something that can flower. And I have no doubt that Oh, words would have been published in some form
Speaker 1:
7:20
because we did at home nursing in the fact that I bought her a special binder. We had special plastic thing, right. Every time she would come with something that would read in St Melissa, this is like wonderful. We need to start putting these like in, in, in a binder. And so we did, we put it in everything in a binder. So that became really special. The fact that she had this binder of all her feelings on every single, you know, um,
Speaker 1:
7:50
I dunno, subject, she thought about things that I'm thinking people wouldn't believe that a person with down syndrome would be thinking about this, you know, amazing. And when I think back to, you know, willow brook, I just think how many people in there, what a loss to the world and to humanity that those people would, was shut away when they had so much to express and do, who knew, knows what talents they had. And for disclosure here, for anybody who's not aware of willow brook was a horrific institution there was exposed by Geraldo Rivera many decades ago now. And um, that's, that's what Laura Regina is referring to and it was exposed and definitely closed. Um, yes, you're right up with the writing though. What I, I guess I want to emphasize here is that the educators gave her the freedom to write instead of what you were saying, they weren't nitpicking her with rural rice.
Speaker 1:
8:50
They were letting her be free. And that's what I remember you telling me. I back in early middle school, late elementary school, going back to educators and asking them if they could please do that and they could never to sat. They had to stick to their rules. So I just wanted to bring that up is maybe an example for any educators who are listening that also it was hard desire, um, to take reg a regular English classes in, in high school. And so, um, I think my senior year she registered for a regular fiction course that she read all the books, some that were difficult and we got them on tape to help her. And then also she took it, the creative writing class, which annoys because she thought it would just be time to write whatever she wanted, but there were specific things you had to write about.
Speaker 1:
9:42
So that didn't always sit so well, but she enjoyed the class and finished it. So um, yeah, I feel like our school system in its way. Boston, you're right. That's wonderful. Is there anything else that you'd like to add? Anything? If I had to give any advice to, to young parents, what I would say is to really become advocates for your child, to help them reach their potential and really just to believe in their child and not to set limits on what they will they can and cannot do. And not to always listen to the experts because you know your child, don't let them set limits that you say, okay, they said this, so she's not going to be able to do that. And the most important thing, just love them and enjoy their life. And um, hopefully you'll get to a point where you can relax. Like I feel like once we relaxed and Melissa, so I had to make those milestones. I like everything else just fell away. I didn't feel like I could tell every person she had down's syndrome. What are they going to think? I just wasn't able to enjoy her life.
Speaker 1:
10:56
Well, thank you so much for your time today. I cannot tell you how much this means to many, many, many people. You're going to educate many people who may not be aware of what Melissa did, and you're going to jog memories for many others, and the legacy of all you do in her honor lives on. And I thank you so much for everything. Thank you. [inaudible] was a pleasure. Thank you. Thank you for listening to the fourth episode of born fabulous. I hope you enjoyed it and want to hear more. To see more about the regio is including photos and videos. Please go to born fabulous podcast.com you can also subscribe to born fabulous and send feedback. Our next conversations are with Sandra and McElwee mother of Sean from born this way, and Jeannie Harris, mother of Tim, who owned a restaurant, counted hugs, and as a successful national speaker, there are several more episodes of born. Fabulous coming. Thanks so much for listening. Now enjoy this clip of the ring lyrics by Melissa regio music in singing by Rachel Fuller.
Speaker 3:
12:31
Yes. [inaudible].
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