A Fierce Kind of Love, a project of Visionary Voices
Institute on Disabilities at Temple University

Stories from
Selinsgrove Center and KenCrest Services


recorded at KenCrest Services April 2015
PHOTO of Ralph
photo by JJ Tiziou

Image Gallery - click a thumbnail to start

LIVES LIVED APART interview with Ralph recorded April 23, 2015

PHOTO of Ralph with his interviwer Nicole
NICOLE'S COMMENTS: "So, based on my work with this project and my work with Ralph and just like experiences that I've had, I'm actually going to law school to pursue public interest law. I think that there's a lot of strides that have been made for people with disabilities in terms of advocacy and just rights that the population has, but I think there's so much more that needs to be done. Sometimes when I'm driving I'll just think about like this project and how just talking to one person for one hour really changes the way that you think about things.

Ralph said that he makes a lot of money. We found out later that everyone [at KenCrest], like is making you know, less than two dollars an hour. It just really makes you evaluate like the way you think about things and like sometimes you get to work and you're like, oh man I didn't get a raise like, but wait... it just challenges the way that you think about things, which is then something that like has been an ongoing theme in like my life in general, but especially with this project. It just challenges the way that you think about things."

Nicole: OK, my name is Nicole Sardella and I'm interviewing Ralph at Ken Crest and today is April 23rd and I have Marjorie in the room with us today. So thanks so much, Ralph, for agreeing to be interviewed. So how about we get started with growing up? So can you tell me where and when you were born and what your birthday is?

Ralph: OK. Sorry, sorry. I'm sorry. I was born...

Nicole: Ralph just handed me his driver's license.

Ralph: It's not a drivers, it's an ID.

Nicole: Oh, his ID so he was born on August 9th, 1962.

Ralph: Yeah.

Nicole: Thank you very much and right now lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania and we are in a town called Malvern.

Ralph: Malvern.

Nicole: Yeah.

Ralph: Yep.

Nicole: Thank you and so, Ralph, how about you tell me what was one of your earliest memories when you were a little kid?

Ralph: Stupid Pennhurst. Pennhurst, I was stuck at Pennhurst. I don't like Pennhurst , live by myself, and I went home, I'm sick. My mom and dad kept an eye on me. I went to school and I quit school and I worked here. I do the bathrooms and sometimes I (inaudible). I put paper in a basket and I tape it up and I eat lunch too. And I have lunch and after lunch I do my halls. At 2 o'clock I see my girlfriend, Helen and that's my day.  My memory is ... and my mom and dad and Carl and... I remember Easter, Christmas, and my birthday. And Helen, I remember her on my birthday too.

Nicole: So where do you and Helen go for your birthday?

Ralph: McDonalds. I pay and we come back here and work.

Nicole: And is that where you go for Helen's birthday too?

Ralph: Yep.

Nicole: So tell me how you met Helen. Tell me more about her.

Ralph: Me and her met in December. I know her a long time ago. She started work here.

Nicole: OK.

Ralph: Helen's my girlfriend. (Inaudible) That's my watch. Sorry.

Nicole: Time check.

Ralph: Yep. I dated her... I bought a ring for her too.

Nicole: Did you do that already or are you going to do that?

Ralph: I'm going to do it.

Nicole: Well hopefully she doesn't hear this before. So that's great and how long have you known her? For a long time?

Ralph: Yep. Yeah, a long time. I know her mom and dad. I don't know who her dad is but her mom and sister. I know her family. A long time ago. I've known her a long time.

Nicole: Yeah, that's really cool. So you see Helen a lot. What else do you do here? So you work. Do you get here early in the morning?

Ralph: I get here early in the morning.

Nicole: Early?

Ralph: Mm-hm and I get myself coffee and then bathrooms. I do all the bathrooms too. I get paid to do that, a lot of money. I clean the bathrooms, I clean the carpet and clean the house too. I clean the house. Oh boy. I clean the house up. We go out, go to the bank, and get hoagies, eat sometimes. Eat in the car... sometimes. (inaudible) summertime. I love her too much. I love her too much and that's it.


Nicole: That's it? Cool. So what do you do on the weekends when you're not here?

Ralph: Out.

Nicole: Out?

Ralph: I go to the bank. I go to the bank. I go to the bank. I put my money in the bank. I put half the money in my savings and half of my money in... I don't want Helen to get mad at me. I pay my phone bill every month or Helen will get me.

Nicole: So when you started working here, how did you feel? Were you nervous? Were you excited?

Ralph: A little nervous.

Nicole: A little nervous?

Ralph: Yeah.

Nicole: Did you start doing the same job you're doing now or were you doing something a little different?

Ralph: I had three jobs. I had three jobs.

Nicole: Three jobs?

Ralph: Yep. The bathroom, packing the truck, and taking the boxes, putting paper in the boxes.

Nicole: Wow.

Ralph: I'm making more money. I make a lot of money.

Nicole: So you talked a little bit about your parents. Do they come to see you?

Ralph: Sometimes. Christmas, holiday, Easter, Thanksgiving, and my birthday.

Nicole: Do you have a favorite holiday?

Ralph: Yeah holiday birthday.

Nicole: Yeah well we were talking with... I believe Diane and she was telling us there's a lot of parties at the holidays.

Ralph: Yeah. There's a Christmas party too.

Nicole: Yeah she was telling us. Tell us about a Christmas party that you went to.

Ralph: Where I live?

Nicole: Yeah.

Ralph: I went dancing and stuff. Every time I go there I buy it too.

Nicole: What did you buy her?

Ralph: A lot of stuff... a little bit of stuff.. watches, jewelry. Well except the watch on her wrist... it was too big.

Nicole: Too big?

Ralph: She got...

Nicole: Did she get you anything?

Ralph: Yeah.

Nicole: What did she get you?

Ralph: Nice stuff. Sometimes... I get a lot. I remember new stuff. She got me a wallet and a watch and new part and everything.

Nicole: Cool. So tell me about some of your other friends that are here. Do you hang out with anyone else that's here? Just Helen?

Ralph: She's doing her job. I do my own job. I see her at two o'clock. At two o'clock she goes home. Her home is.. at least. I'll see her tomorrow. See you tomorrow morning. I love you and have a good day. And I say have a nice day and she calls me up. She calls me on a cell. She calls me up and she... watches TV. I watch... she wins a lot of stuff. She (inaudible)

Nicole: OK.


Nicole: So what does Helen do for her job?

Ralph: It's her job. She works down there. She works down there. Helen has a hard time. I don't like that.

Nicole: Oh no, why?

Ralph: She's fired, she's fired. I said then don't hire her. The boss... They hire the boss. Do your job. That's it. She fought her. Yeah. (inaudible) She keeps that job. I told her to keep that job. I know her mom and her sister a long time ago. She started working here and one time my girlfriend, Helen. (Inaudible).  I make more money. I have a car too.

Nicole: Really?

Ralph: Yeah, I'll get my license soon.

Nicole: What's your favorite kind of car?

Ralph: I love them...

Nicole: So do you practice driving like on the weekends? When do you practice?

Ralph: A long time ago.

Nicole: A long time ago?

Ralph: Yep, a long time ago. I got my license.

Nicole: Who helps you? Who teaches you to drive?

Ralph: People show me how to drive. I don't have a driver's license but I'm a good driver. I drive a car up there, I park, everything, and come back down here. I got my license. I passed.

Nicole: Cool. That's really interesting. So if you could drive anywhere, where would you want to go?

Ralph: To my girlfriend's house!

Nicole: And where does she live?

Ralph: I don't know. I don't know. Ask Russ.

Nicole: Close to here though?

Ralph: No, far away.

Nicole: Far away?

Ralph: My mom... every time my dad or my mom. Oh boy. I can't tell you.

Nicole: Tell me.

Ralph: Her mom and my mom (in a hospital) She called me. She said I lost her too. I calmed her down. Every time I saw her... other people died and she called me. My (Inaudible) died too. My mama and papa died too and (inaudible) died too, cancer for Easter. I miss her. I miss them.

Nicole: I'm very sorry to hear that.

Ralph: (Inaudible)

Nicole: So do you have a lot of good memories with those people?

Ralph: I had a lot of people, my family.

Nicole: Yeah.

Ralph: Two times... two times in the hospital. My dad... (inaudible) I'm not very happy. I'm not very happy about that.

Nicole: Yeah. Well it sounds like they were very important to you.

Ralph: That's my family. My dad came for Easter. He died too.

Nicole: Do you have a favorite memory with your dad?

Ralph: No, not my mom or dad. My sister. (inaudible) and my sister Nancy, mom or dad.

Nicole: How old is Nancy?

Ralph: I don't know. Tell me. Too old.

Nicole: Do you see Nancy often?

Ralph: I call her.

Nicole: You call her?

Ralph: Every Sunday.

Nicole: Every Sunday?

Ralph: Yeah.

Nicole: Wow, what do you guys talk about?

Ralph: If I behave myself at work and at home. She is (inaudible) too.

Nicole: Does Nancy have a family? Do you have any nieces or nephews?

Ralph: No... maybe.

Nicole: Maybe?

Ralph: Mm-hm.

Nicole: And does Nancy live around here or is she further away?

Ralph: Further away. My dad has a house for us.

Nicole: Do you visit or does she visit or do you see her a lot?

Ralph: Sometimes. Sometimes she picks me up, sometimes I'll call. I have to get my stuff.

Nicole: Yeah. What do you guys do? Do you like to go outside? Do you like to go to parks? Do you go out to eat?

Ralph: Yep. I like to go to Hershey Park.

Nicole: Hershey Park? Cool.

Ralph: Helen likes Hershey Park too.

Nicole: Oh yeah. DOrney Park; what's your favorite part about it?

Ralph: The whole thing!

Nicole: Do you like riding rollercoasters? Do you like the spinning rides? What's your favorite part about it?

Ralph: Rollercoasters.

Nicole: Rollercoasters?

Ralph: Up there... bumper cars.

Nicole: Bumper cars?

Ralph: Yeah. Everything I like. Oh boy, bumper cars.. (inaudible). Sorry

Nicole: That's OK.

Ralph: And... I see that too. I've got to shut my phone off. (inaudible)

Nicole: Yeah.

Ralph: And they get mad too. I like the horses. Sure. I come back home, come back to work and I do a lot of work around here. The boxes too, put the boxes down.. and have lunch. For the bosses... the end.

Nicole: The end? Have you've always done the same kind of job or is it different every so often? Does it change at all?

Ralph: No change.

Nicole: No change?

Ralph: I tape up the boxes.

Nicole: Yeah.

Ralph: I do some. Oh boy. I have a new chair.

Nicole: You know?

Ralph: I have a new chair. I have a brand new chair at home.

Marjorie: A brand new chair?

Ralph: Yep.

Nicole: Wow, did you get that yourself? That's beautiful!

Ralph: My own money.

Nicole: Wow, it's so nice.

Ralph: I picked it out, everything.

Marjorie: Excellent. Does it recline? Can you lean back?

Ralph: Yeah, with a remote.

Nicole: A remote?

Ralph: Yeah, a remote.

Nicole: Wow, that's cool.

Ralph: A remote.

Nicole: That's so awesome.

Ralph: That's a lot of money. I paid so much money.

Nicole: Well it's a very nice chair.

Marjorie: It looks really comfortable.

Ralph: Yep.

Nicole: Yeah. Do you like to watch TV while you're in the chair?

Ralph: Yep.

Nicole: What else do you do? Anything else?

Ralph: Watch (?) Tuesday night 10 o'clock and I watch Mr. T...

Nicole: Do you have a favorite TV show?

Ralph: News (?) You watch (?)?

Nicole: No, I've never heard of it.

Ralph: New ... My uncle.

Nicole: Oh.

Ralph: My uncle, I miss him.

Nicole: Yeah.

Ralph: At ten o'clock at night time.

Nicole: Is that what time you usually go to bed? 10 or 11?

Ralph: After (inaudible) I go to bed. I watch it at ten o'clock at night. I love it. And I watch the news. I watch the news too. I have my iPad, a small one.

Nicole: Oh, you have an iPad too?

Ralph: Two; one big one and a small one.

Nicole: oh my goodness.

Ralph: I have a new bed, new dresser, and I also bought a new one.

Nicole: So what did you do with the old chair?

Ralph: Junked it.

Nicole: Junked it?

Ralph: Yep.

Nicole: And what do you like to do on your iPad? Do you play games on it?

Ralph: Uh-huh.

Nicole: What kind of games do you play?

Ralph: I watch movies too.

Nicole: Oh what's your favorite movie?

Ralph: I like that movie. I can't think of it. I have (?) movies and TV.

Nicole: Yeah.

Ralph: Yeah. I paid too much money. I go home, watch the news, I watch ... I like the police man. I like that too. I like police men, and 911. I like that. We go bowling every Tuesday too.

Nicole: Really?

Ralph: Yep. I have strikes. I like bowling. Do you?

Nicole: I do. So are you in a league or do you just go with some friends?

Ralph: Friends. Sometimes with people but we play more games and come back home and watch Mr. T.

Nicole: So Tuesday sounds like a big day. Is that your favorite day of the week? Do you have a favorite day of the week.

Ralph: Yep bowling then come back get my pills and watch Mr. T. I like A Team. Mr. T. I like him. Mr. T don't mess around.

Marjorie: I haven't seen the A-Team in a long time.

Ralph: I like A Team.

Nicole: Do you like to do anything else besides bowling? Do you like to play any other sports? Do you like to watch them?

Ralph: Baseball.

Nicole: Baseball?

Ralph: Yep.

Nicole: Do you like the Phillies?

Ralph: Yes! They play tonight.

Nicole: They play tonight?

Ralph: You watching it?

Nicole: I don't know if I'm going to!

Ralph: Come on! It's on 88 times.

Nicole: It's at eight?

Ralph: No, it's on 88 times.

Nicole: Oh.

Marjorie: They're playing this afternoon. It's the business man's special today.

Ralph: Oh, I know.

Nicole: So do you listen to it on the radio or do you watch it on TV?

Ralph: Both.

Nicole: Both? At the same time?

Ralph: I can't hear the TV. 94-1. I like baseball. I do like baseball. I went there to the games a long time ago with the people here.

Nicole: Oh really?

Ralph: yep.

Nicole: Who did they play?

Ralph: Phillies and... I can't think of it.

Nicole: Did they win? Do you remember?

Ralph: Yep, they won.

Nicole: Good.

Marjorie: Do you have a favorite Phillies player?

Ralph: Yep. I like Freddy Galvis.

Marjorie: Do you like Chase Utley?

Ralph: No.

Marjorie: Do you like Ryan Howard?

Ralph: Nope. Freddy.

Marjorie: OK.

Ralph: Some I like.

Marjorie: Carlos Ruiz?

Ralph: No.

Nicole: Just the team, not any individual players.

Ralph: Yep.

Nicole: That's very cool. Do you watch the Eagles or the Flyers at all?

Ralph: Mm-hm.

Nicole: No?

Ralph: No.

Nicole: Just baseball?

Ralph: Baseball, I like.

Nicole: Did you ever play baseball?

Ralph: Basketball.

Nicole: Basketball.

Ralph: I sprained my ankle.

Nicole: You sprained your ankle?

Ralph: Before I worked here.

Nicole: Before you worked here?

Ralph: Mm-hm. OK. Way down the road, no room up here in this place. I hurt my ankle way back. Oh boy. Then it got better.

Nicole: Good, good.

Ralph: I put a lot of ice on it. My doctor told me a lot of ice.

Nicole: Who were you playing basketball with?

Ralph: Myself and people in the neighborhood, people in my group home.

Nicole: OK, is that where you live?

Ralph: Mm-hm. And I work here.

Nicole: Yeah. How do you get here?

Ralph: A van.

Nicole: A van.

Ralph: Mm-hm. (Inaudible) Broke down, bought a new one. (inaudible) some people were in my house, some people in my room steal my stuff.

Nicole: Really?

Ralph: Yeah the TV was stolen too. We had to call the cops.

Nicole: What happened after that?

Ralph: We had to buy new stuff... it cost money.

Nicole: Yeah. Does that happen often? Has it happened before?

Ralph: Someone worked there, someone stole it. We had to change the stupid lock.

Nicole: Oh you had to change the lock?

Ralph: Yep and I had to get new keys. I don't like that someone stole my stuff.

Nicole: Yeah.

Ralph: It made me mad. It's all done.

Nicole: It's all done? So did that happen to anyone else or was it just you?

Ralph: My stuff stolen? Mine. We had to get new keys and change my locks. I had to get my keys myself. My room and my keys. I don't like people stealing my stuff. It made me very angry. I lose my temper.

Nicole: Oh no.

Ralph: I lose my temper. Someone steals my stuff. I get mad.

Nicole: So do you have a roommate or do you live in a room by yourself?

Ralph: Myself. I lived with a roommate and myself now.

Nicole: Do you like that?

Ralph: Mm-hm.

Nicole: And how long have you lived where you live now?

Ralph: A long time.

Nicole: A long time? Do you have a lot of friends that are there?

Ralph: stupid staff.

Nicole: The stupid staff?

Ralph: The only staff I like is Centa.

Nicole: Tell me about her.

Ralph: Oh, Centa is OK. I'll call her and she's a cool lady, cool lady and... Centa, she's alright. She passed out. Went downstairs, get something to drink... pass out. Seizure (inaudible) and Michael died too. Michael passed out. We had to call 911. When someone stole our stuff we had to call 911. I tell the staff to clean the grease in the oven. Next door neighbor died too.

Nicole: S why don't you like the other staff members?

Ralph: (Inaudible) I don't like them. They're nice to me then I like that. I walk away. I call Dennis.

Nicole: Yeah.

Ralph: I call Chris too.

Nicole: Are those your friends?

Ralph: Yeah. I call Chris and call Dennis. Dennis is nice to me. I call him when I want to. (?) put a hole in the wall too.

Nicole: He put a hole in the wall?

Ralph: I saw it.

Nicole: Was he mad? What happened?

Ralph: He was mad at some people. I said knock it off. Knock it off or I'll tell on you. I don't like that. Dennis said stop it. I'm OK though. I'm in my room to calm down. I don't like that. I walk away. The staff... I walk away. And I do dishes. I do dishes. 

Nicole: That's it? Do you like doing dishes? Do you have other chores you have to do that you do every day?

Ralph: I do carpet. I do it Sunday. I do it Monday and bathroom Tuesday. I don't like doing the bathroom.

Nicole: You don't like it?

Ralph: No. Not at my house. In my house. I have the house key.

Nicole: You have a whole house to clean?

Ralph: No I have a house key in my pocket.

Nicole: Oh.

Ralph: I have upstairs keys and downstairs keys. We lock it one at a time. I have keys to the house. I had to go in the office (Inaudible) keys. I'm locked out. I had to go in the window.

Nicole: Really?

Ralph: Yeah I locked my keys in the house.

Nicole: So how did he get through the window?

Ralph: Open it.

Nicole: And just went right in?

Ralph: Yep. He went through the house and unlocked it, through the bathroom window. I did tell Pat I need keys. Sometimes I go to Hershey Park sometimes with the staff and (inaudible) No way.

Nicole: No way?

Ralph: No way. Know what happened? I threw up in the bathroom.

Nicole: Oh no! So never again?

Ralph: I don't know why. I like bumper cars. I don't know. And I threw up... I went there with people, the old staff and Chris.

Nicole: From here? When did that happen?

Ralph: A long time ago, summertime, yeah.

Nicole: So were there a lot of new people here now?

Ralph: A lot of old people, old staff fired for stealing stuff.. (Inaudible) stealing stuff, breaking stuff, hiding stuff.

Nicole: Really?

Ralph: Yeah. Hiding stuff, I don't like that. I don't like people touching my stuff. Sometimes (inaudible)

Nicole: Yeah.

Ralph: Where I live... we play games.

Nicole: You play games?

Ralph: Yeah.

Nicole: What kind of games?

Ralph: Playing basketball stuff...

Nicole: Yeah.

Ralph: A lot of those games. Everything.

Nicole: Well, that sounds fun.

Ralph: Yeah, I like that.

Nicole: Do you like playing competitive games... do you guys get...

Ralph: Yeah, do you?

Nicole: Do I? I do.

Ralph: You do?

Nicole: Do you guys play a lot of outdoors games, do you [play card games? Do you like to play board games?

Ralph: A lot of games. Racing and TV. I like games in my room.

Nicole: Video games?

Ralph: Yeah. I had PTS. Everything. I had everything, yeah. I had everything at home and I had a PS 2. Do you?

Nicole: Do I? I do not.

Ralph: You don't have nothing?

Nicole: No but that's OK. But yeah so do you play video games a lot? Do you play them in your free time?

Ralph: At home.

Nicole: Only in your room?

Ralph: Uh-huh.

Nicole: OK so we have about five more minutes left. So I have a couple of other questions that I just wanted to ask you before we wrap up. So one of the things that I'd love to know is what is something in your life that you're really proud of?

Ralph: My life?

Nicole: Yeah.

Ralph: Oh boy. I don't know with that.

Nicole: Or something that makes you really happy?

Ralph: I'm happy when I go some places.

Nicole: Yeah?

Ralph: Yeah. Go home, call my mom, call my sister. That's it. Call my sister every Sunday. Sometimes I... sometimes I go out, go food shopping with my staff. Sometimes I go to the bank.

Nicole: Yeah.

Ralph: Put my money in, half in savings and half is my spending money.

Nicole: Yeah and that's so cool. So is there anything else you want to tell me?

Ralph: No.

Nicole: That's it?

Ralph: Yeah. Yep.

Nicole: Well thank you so much for sharing.

Ralph: Yeah, you too.

Nicole: This was very interesting and I'm very glad that we got to talk today.

Ralph: Yep.

Nicole: Cool. So I'm going to shut everything off.

Marjorie: Thank you Ralph.


Photos by JJ Tiziou

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