John Steensma, an educator and advocate for the disabled, died on Nov. 24 from cancer. He was 82.
Steensma lost his arms when he was 18 years old while trying to free a homemade parachute from a power line. He was electrocuted, fell 70 feet off a tower, underwent numerous surgeries and eventually learned how to use prosthetic arms to complete ordinary tasks.
Undaunted by his handicap, Steensma graduated from Calvin College in Michigan, and spent 12 years working as the director of the Child Amputee Project of the Michigan Crippled Children’s Commission.
Steensma moved to South Korea in 1958, where he ran a small clinic for civilian amputees. Over the next decade, he turned the Seoul center into a seven-story rehabilitation complex.
In 1966, Steensma returned to the states and spent the next two decades as the coordinator of the Rehabilitation Department at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. Five years ago, he was invited to speak at the International Conference on Disability, an event sponsored by the United Nations.