Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Clara Bustow Shuer, 1918-2012: Advocate earned Jefferson Award

Clara Bustow Shuer, a pioneer for equal education and training opportunities for people with mental retardation, died Sunday in Kingston Residence of Sylvania, where she lived for 18 months.

Mrs. Shuer, 93, formerly of Ottawa Hills, died of congestive heart failure, her daughter Luann Garber said.

For more than a half-century, she and her husband, Jay, advocated for equality for developmentally disabled children and adults after the birth in 1943 of their daughter, Debby, who was diagnosed with mental retardation.

Their advocacy led the Ohio General Assembly to pass legislation in the 1950s that allowed counties to place levies to a vote to fund education and training of developmentally disabled people.

Their effort led to approval in 1958 of a 0.3-mill levy in Lucas County.

In 1951, the couple helped form the Lucas County Association for Retarded Children, now ARC of Lucas County. Her husband served as president, and she became its first female president. Their home was a meeting place and offered a crisis line for LARC for more than 20 years, her daughter said.

In 2006, Mrs. Shuer, at 87, was honored with the local Jefferson Award for Public Service, and she attended the national ceremony in Washington. London Mitchell, longtime spokesman for the Lucas County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, now the county board of developmental disabilities, said Mrs. Shuer’s contributions can’t be overstated.

“She and her husband were parent-advocates in getting the state legislature to allow counties to put property levies on the ballot just for schools for people with mental retardation,” said Mr. Mitchell, who has worked with the agency for 23 years.

In the late 1960s, before the Shuers began their lobbying, “public schools could exclude a child if [schools] thought they didn’t have other recourses to educate those children,” he said.

Luann said her parents tried to enroll Debby in kindergarten, but she was sent home because public schools didn’t teach students with IQs under 50.

Mr. Mitchell said because of Mrs. Shuer, Lucas County “was ahead of the game” in providing opportunities for the mentally disabled.

“We had a really strong parents’ group, evident by the fact we could pass the first levy to allow the first school to be built,” he said.

In the 1950s, parents helped create the county’s first sheltered workshop, which has evolved into Lott Industries.

Lucas County opened LARC Lane School in 1961 and in 1971 the Jay Shuer School opened in Oregon.

She was born July 9, 1918, in Toledo to Harry and Sadie (Glass) Bustow. She was a French horn player at Woodward High school, from which she graduated in 1935, and played in the Toledo Orchestra at a time when its musicians were amateurs, Luann said.

She married Jay Joseph Shuer in 1942.

She continued to volunteer, campaign, raise funds, and advocate for developmentally disabled people well into her 80s, her daughter said.

She served on the boards of the Maumee Valley Girl Scout Council, YWCA, Council of Jewish Women, United Jewish Council Camp Ma-Hi-A and other agencies. She was chairman of the Washington Township League of Women Voters.

She was predeceased by husband, Jay and siblings, Bertha Treuhaft and Jack Bustow.

Mrs. Shuer is survived by daughters Debby Shuer, Julie Davis, and Luann Garber; five grandchildren, and a sister, Lillian Pelter.

Services will be at 1 p.m. Monday at Wick/Wisniewski Funeral Home. Shiva services will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Garber residence.

Memorials are suggested to the Jay J. and Clara B. Shuer Special Education Scholarship Fund at the University of Toledo, Bittersweet Farms, the Josina Lott Residential and Community Center, or Congregation B’nai Israel.

Contact Jim Sielicki at: or 419-724-6050

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