Akron Beacon JournalChristmas, 1975
Best gift: After 53 yrs. in institution, he’s free
By Charles Lally, Beacon Journal Staff Writer
Though he never committed any crime, William Lytle, 66, is a free man for the first time in 53 years.In 1922 when he was 13, Lytle was committed to Orient State Institute for the mentally retarded. He spent his life there until last May when he was returned to Akron for a “trial visit.”
Lytle was told recently that his formal release from the state hospital will come within the next several weeks.“That’s the best Christmas present I’ve ever had,” Lytle said.
William Lytle is not retarded and never was, according to Tom Allio, district representative for the Division of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.Allio was instrumental in gaining Lytle’s release from the state institution.
Allio said that from the Akron area there are at least 340 people in state mental institutions for the retarded who don’t belong there.Like Lytle, he said those 340 persons could live a normal, meaningful and productive life, but their return to the community is delayed or prevented because there is nowhere for them to live while they make their readjustment.
Lytle was one of five children from a broken home. With his brother and sisters, he was sent to the Summit County Children’s Home, but young Bill had troubles there.Though the records are as bad as state hospital conditions, Bill was apparently viewed by Children’s Home officials as a slow learner. He had injured his head in a fall from a second story window onto a brick sidewalk and county officials decided in 1922 he belonged in an institution for the retarded.
Bill said he never went farther than the second grade in school, and his formal education didn’t advance very much at Orient State.But it was there that Bill became an avid reader. “Zane Grey is my favorite author,” he said.
“I used to read the books to the blind boys. The words I didn’t understand I spelled out to them—some of them went as high as the fifth and sixth grades—and they would tell me what the words were. That’s how I got my education,” he said.Bill doesn’t complain about his 53 years at Orient State. But he does say that “you’d better believe” he is happier back in Akron, working a full-time job at Goodwill and living with his brother and sister-in-law Mr. and Mrs. John Lytle, 729 Moraine Ave.
Bill said conditions at Orient State improved drastically during the past few years, but the impersonal wards and empty days had nothing to match his lavish lifestyle now.Living with his brother’s family, Bill has his own room, a new color television that he bought with his own earnings, a dresser, a closet, places to put his own belongings, a little privacy when he wants it.
“During the summer I sit out on the front porch. It’s nice and comfortable out there. In the winter, I can watch television or spend time with my family,” he said.Lytle said the most difficult part of his readjustment to life outside the state institution was “getting used to my job.”
“Now I’m really used to it,” he said. “I like working, meeting new friends.
“I like it fine. I like the people I work under. I ain’t going to retire as long as the Good Lord lets me,” he said.William Lytle is lucky. Despite more than five decades at Orient State Institute, his family did not forget him.
His older brother John and his wife frequently visited him, and more than 30 years ago they sought his release. They were refused, they said, because authorities said William was a ward of the state and could not leave the institution.
A life sentence.But when the Division of Mental Retardation opened a local office at 500 Grant Street two-and-one-half years ago, workers there began attempting to release those from state institutions who didn’t belong there and to keep out those who shouldn’t be sent to an institution.
Lenore Lytle credits the local office with gaining her brother-in-law’s release. She had given up hope, she said.Allio said there are hundreds more like William Lytle who should return to the community, but they have no families to take them in.
The need, he said, is for more homes in which to place these persons while they make their readjustment to the community and homes to which to send persons instead of state institutions.Allio’s office is seeking Akron area families willing to open up their homes to people like William Lytle.
Through Social Security and state payments, persons operating these “foster homes” are paid for the expense of feeding and housing their roomers, though state staffers caution that it is not a way to make money.The state examines the home for health and fire safety and licenses each foster home.
State workers said it is important that as many persons as possible are kept out of state institutions and that as many as possible are returned from the institutions to live a more sheltered life in the community."We have to avoid them being warehoused in the community as well as at the institution,” according to Nick Gambone, the coordinator for the local office of the Division of Mental Retardation.