When 8-month-old Tim Kolb was diagnosed with a rare disability, a doctor told his parents that he would not make it until his first birthday.
Instead, the Franklin native died on Saturday at the age of 74. A state law was named in his honor, and his influence was reflected in many other laws and policies that apply to people with disabilities.
What has come to be known as the “Tim Kolb Change” enables competent adults with disabilities to manage their own care from home assistants rather than relying on licensed health professionals. The provision also enables parents and carers to direct the care of children and incompetent adults.
Kolb campaigned for change in 1995 after he was hospitalized and had a tracheostomy, a breathing tube in the neck. After that, state officials forced him to stay in a care facility because, according to state law, a doctor had to suction out the tube.
The change enabled him to return to the house where he had lived with the help of family and foster helpers.
It wasn’t Kolb’s first or last foray into disability activism. He became one of the leading advocates in Nebraska for the rights and self-determination of people with disabilities.
Mary Angus, chairwoman of the Kolb Foundation for Disability Education, said her friend was influenced by his energy, intelligence, and the perspective his own condition gave him. She particularly remembers his welcoming demeanor.
“What he could do with just the muscles in his face was amazing,” she said. “He enriched the world so much.”
Kolb was born with a rare condition known as Werdnig-Hoffmann disease or spinal muscular atrophy that eventually led to quadriplegia.
In a blog post, he wrote that his parents raised him as a normal child and insisted he go to regular public school even though he and his wheelchair had to be carried up and down stairs to attend class.
He then graduated from Kearney State College, now the University of Nebraska at Kearney, as a fully trained physics and math teacher in high school.
In the days before the Disabled Americans Act, he couldn’t be hired as a full-time teacher. But he taught substitute high schools in Kearney and Franklin and taught numerous students from the Franklin area. He has also appeared on a Kearney religious show and taught Sunday School for teenagers.
In the middle of life, Kolb increasingly campaigned for disabled people. He dealt with issues of accessibility and employment as well as measures to help disabled people gain more control over their lives.
“Advocacy is essentially an act of educating oneself and others, not only about their legal rights, but also about the exercise of our right to seek authority over and ability to do the things we need to survive Community thrive. ” he said in a 2015 blog post.
His achievements included a law passed last year to make work and income easier for disabled people without losing their Medicaid coverage. Angus said the move is aimed at setting restrictions in previous laws.
Kolb founded and directed the Kolb Foundation for Disability Education, through which he conducted training and provided information about disabilities. He has also served on a number of public and private policy and advisory groups.
He was chairman of the board of directors of Independence Rising, the former center for independent living in central Nebraska, and a member of the community advisory board of the Monroe Meyer Institute, the Nebraska Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, the Nebraska Statewide Independent Living Council, of Disability Rights Nebraska and more.
Survivors are his 22 year old wife, Karen Kolb; and his brother Chris Kolb from Lincoln.
Services will be held on Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. at Grace Lutheran Church in Franklin and will be streamed live on the Hutchins Funeral Home’s Facebook page.
Notable deaths in Nebraska in 2021
Ed Guthrie, Nebraska’s last known survivor from Pear Harbor, died on January 7th at the age of 102. Read more.
Long-time Omaha real estate manager Ted Seldin died on January 9th at the age of 89. Read more.
Shirley Tyree, who served on the board of the Omaha Public Schools for 20 years, died on January 12th. She was 82 years old. Read more.
Gail Kopplin, who served as superintendent of Gretna Public Schools and senator for the state of Nebraska, died on January 13th. He was 81 years old. Read more.
Richard Roth, who served four terms as Sheriff of Douglas County, died on January 19, the day before his wife, Ruth, died. He was 93. Read More
Former Chief Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court, Norman Krivosha, died on January 26th. He was 86 years old. Read more.
Andy Hoffman, who founded the Team Jack Foundation (named after his son, left) to raise money to help fight childhood cancer, died on March 1, months after his own diagnosis of cancer. Continue reading.
Dr. Joe Stothert
Dr. Joe Stothert, a local trauma surgeon and husband of Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, died on March 5. Read more.
Former Nebraska State Senator Dwite Pedersen died March 16 at the age of 79. He served four terms in the legislature. Continue reading.
L. Dennis Smith
L. Dennis Smith, who served as President of the University of Nebraska System from 1994 to 2004, died on March 29th. He was 83 years old. Read more.
Joe Hammeke, a Creighton Prep graduate who combined his love of photography and skateboarding in Thrasher Magazine, died on April 13th. The 48-year-old suffered from heart failure while fighting esophageal cancer. Continue reading.