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Larry Morgan

Larry Morgan
Larry Morgan enjoys his work as part of the Agnews landscaping team. The extra money he earns often results in gifts for his mother.

The grating sound of a rake on asphalt tells of Larry Morgan's efforts. Slowly, he battles the stray leaves and paper that whirl around his ankles in the Agnews parking lot.

Unknown to Larry, another battle is raging over his fate and future. His home for the past 20 years has been Agnews. His loving parents, Mick and Marilyn Morgan, raised Larry, their third son, until he turned 14. At this point his size and aggressive behavior made him too hard for them to control.

"You never knew what was going to happen. ... Nobody could handle him," Mrs. Morgan says. Living at Agnews has given Larry stability. The staff of doctors and psychiatric technicians keep him on an even keel. Mrs. Morgan admires and respects the staff: "I could not be a better mother than his unit leader."

Larry has less severe developmental disabilities than most Agnews residents. The Morgans would consider trying him on the outside, except that they fear if it didn't work out and Larry had to return to a developmental center, the administration might not allow him back into Agnews. Legally, Agnews doesn't have to. Larry could be sent to one of the other four developmental centers in the state, the likely one being Porterville, which is five hours to the south.

Because they live close by, Larry's parents are able to see him almost every day and bring him home on the weekends, which they would be unable to do if he moved. The Morgans also worry that if Larry's medication were not properly monitored, he could become violent and get in trouble with the law. They fear that the police might not know how to deal with their 6-foot, 2-inch, 200-pound son. At worst, they point out, a confrontation could turn violent, as in the case of Joseph Leitner, a developmentally disabled adult who went off his medication while living in a community-care residence. Police picked up Leitner for acting strangely, and when in custody Leitner was smothered while restrained underneath a blanket. He is still in a coma.

"It all comes back to a parent's love and concern for their child," Mrs. Morgan says. "Larry always introduces me as 'This is my beautiful mother.' " Holding up a studio portrait of Larry, his proud mom relates one of the lessons she learned from her son. "Larry has taught us patience and acceptance of other people. He has taught me to be more compassionate, and he has taught me about unconditional love."

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From the April 24-30, 1997 issue of Metro

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Copyright © 1997 Metro Publishing, Inc.

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