Mrs. Larlham, born in 1914, grew up in Reader, West Virginia. After graduating from the Youngstown Hospital Association School of Nursing, she began working as a nurse in a special care unit of an Ohio hospital. As a registered nurse, Mrs. Larlham was frustrated with the lack of assistance programs for children with disabilities.
In 1961, Larlham witnessed a neighbor’s family ceaselessly struggle with the intensive, 24-hour care their baby daughter with inoperable hydrocephalus required. Larlham, her husband, and three children decided to take the child into their home and provide the care she needed.
Larlham soon earned a reputation for caring for children with disabilities and at one point had more than 10 children living in her three-bedroom farmhouse. In 1963, with more than 100 children on a waiting list, Larlham established the Hattie Larlham Foundation, Inc. Shortly thereafter, the Hattie Larlham Foundation built a facility capable of housing 50 people with disabilities. To further her cause at a national level, Larlham served as an advisor on disability issues for the administrations of U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Because of her life’s work and legacy, Larlham was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame in 1980 and received the Ohio Private Residential Association’s Lifetime Achievement award in 1994. She was also one of 200 women featured by author Jacqueline Jones Royster in the book Profiles of Ohio Women 1803-2003 (Ohio University Press, 2003), celebrating the accomplishments of Ohio women whose work has been at the forefront of their profession and whose lives have impacted communities in Ohio and around the world.
Larlham passed away February 28, 1996. In accordance with her final wishes, she is buried at the Hattie Larlham Center for Children with Disabilities where a memorial walk commemorates her dedication.
One of the common themes throughout the rich history of Hattie Larlham is community support. Since its earliest beginnings nearly 60 years ago, Hattie Larlham has grown and thrived with the help of our neighbors. Whether it's through donations, volunteerism, or advocacy, community support has always been an important piece of our legacy. We are humbly grateful to all those who support our mission and to those who will join us in our efforts to bring comfort, joy and achievement to people with disabilities.