Erv Derda never stopped fighting for the underdog

Memorial tribute to Ervin Derda

May 3, 1924 – February 5, 2018

Sometimes a laundry list of life accomplishments just doesn’t tell you what you really need to know.

What you really need to know about Erv Derda, an amazing gentleman who had no children with disabilities of his own, is that he fought against injustice as a pilot in World War II. And when that battle was done, he spent the rest of his life fighting injustice on behalf of children and adults with special needs.

Erv was a man of the greatest character.  He believed in right, wrong, and the idea of not wasting life.  “Not wasting” meant looking out for people who couldn’t look out for themselves – the never-ending battle that Erv was prepared for.

For years, he took the fight right to the establishment.  He fought public schools, state government, and lobbyists so that you and I could send our children with special needs, to the same public schools that every other child goes to.  He won that battle and so many more.

Erv wanted adults with special needs to know what it’s like to have a purpose in life – to know what it’s like to earn a paycheck and pay taxes like everyone else.  So, he raised millions of dollars to build a new LOGAN Industries near the South Bend International Airport.

When the President of the United States asked him to join the national Commission on Mental Retardation, he did it partly so he could steer resources to an organization that fought for the legal rights of people with disabilities.  That organization just happened to be co-founded by LOGAN and the University of Notre Dame.

He served as Chair of the LOGAN board of directors, spoke on behalf of LOGAN constantly, and continued to fight for the rights and the dignity of children with special needs year-after-year.

And then, he did something extraordinary.  He stepped down from a good-paying job, so he could devote all of his time to years of preparation for the 1987 International Special Olympics in South Bend.  Who would do such a thing?  Erv Derda would.  Erv Derda did.

Not only did he chair the event, Erv Derda made sure it made money for the first time in history.  Then, he used that money to start the LOGAN Foundation.

Erv Derda went through life looking at the way things were, and then asking why?

Why aren’t all of our children allowed in the public school system?  Why can’t we build our own facility and create real jobs for adults with special needs?  Why are we waiting for someone else to lobby for laws that protect men and women with special needs?  Why don’t we make money instead of losing money by hosting the International Special Olympics?  And why are we waiting for someone else to change the world?  Let’s change the world ourselves.

It wasn’t easy, but he did change the world.  We’re living in that world right now.

So, how did a gentleman who fought for the rights and dignity of people who couldn’t do it themselves make his most precious contribution to changing the world?  After 40 years without a disabled child of his own, he married Mary Ann, whose son Kevin, has special needs.

Neither Erv nor Mary Ann could possibly have known, but it was written to happen this way thousands of years ago.  This was their destiny.  It was meant to be.

Erv Derda was a gift to the world.  His lifetime of service to people with special needs was extraordinary.

Thank you Erv.  Thank you for looking at life the way it was, and then asking why?  Thank you for inspiring us all. And, thank you for what you accomplished on behalf of every man, woman and child in the LOGAN family.

May God bless you always for the life you led.

Sincerely with love,

The LOGAN family

Read Erv’s full obituary in The South Bend Tribune here.