Ginny Thornburgh’s mission to the disabled and the churches who forget them.

Her motto: “A ramp is not enough.” Ginny Thornburgh insists that people with disabilities have gifts that congregations need, and when their contributions are restricted, we all lose. As the director of the religion program of the National Organization on Disability, Thornburgh has spent many years working as an advocate for people with disabilities.

Bright-eyed and eager, Thornburgh greets visitors to her Washington, D.C., apartment with a gracious warmth that lets you know at once that you are at home. This reflexive sensitivity to others’ needs has been something of a theme.

She was only 23 when she married a man whose wife had been killed in a car accident, and though the three sons who were in the car survived, Peter, who was then four months old, suffered extensive brain damage. Richard Thornburgh went on to become governor of Pennsylvania and attorney general of the United States during the Reagan and Bush presidencies; the young son grew up to be Ginny’s inspiration, “Peter, a man of faith.”

How did you and Peter come to be family?

Well, I fell in love with his dad! Richard is such a man of honor that he didn’t kiss me until he had introduced me to all of his sons. This is who he was; he was first a father. When Richard and I were married in 1963, the boys were six, five, and three-and-a-half.

You obviously had a love for children, but it must have seemed like an extra challenge to take on a child like Peter.

It honestly wasn’t. When you’re 23, you feel as though you can do anything. The biggest step was finding out what motherhood means: the commitment, the energy, the concern, the dreams, the fears, the multiple roles. I think I just fell in ...

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