Maria Galati


Maria Galati was an ‘inclusion pioneer’ and powerful teacher. In her short life, she taught a generation of fellow students, teachers and other families about the meaning of full inclusion – by living it.

Maria Galati – March 24, 1979 – July 14, 1998:

While we regret the passing of Maria, her gifts to us all far outnumber any regrets we may have. Her life has been a profound influence on so many.

Rose & Dom and Felicia

The people who have been and are affected by her will forever be her legacy. Because of this, she can never be forgotten. She celebrated her life as a beacon for all who believe in the value of the individual. For us, who knew her on daily basis, we grew to understand her goodness, her power to affect others, and her beauty. She brought out the good in even the most hard hearted. She brought together people whose diverse ideas and beliefs are crystallizing into visions of what the world should be.

It is always complex when young people die, but few at the tender age of 19 have a list of powerful accomplishments as a pioneer, teacher, and friend. Maria lived her life as a warrior for peace. She and her family were relentless in their struggles to ensure that she was fully welcomed, accepted and participating fully in school, church, community and beyond. Some had the illusion that this was just Rose and Dom. They were involved – but they were Maria’s partners in a struggle for justice for all – for full inclusion – for a full life for all children. Maria was the inspiration and the drive. She will continue to provide that energy and leadership. Her capacity to crush brick walls with the warmth of her smile is legendary. Her pioneering efforts to open schools to “all” have paved the way for thousands in Canada. She was one of ‘the first’ and one of the bravest souls. Now she can rest while we continue the struggle she fueled with love. She taught so much to so many of us. We will use her wisdom and her strength for years to come. We will remember her as we continue her mission to welcome all children.

Tribute to a Pioneer & Teacher

from Jack & Marsha

Maria Galati:
young friend and teacher:
daughter of Rose and Dom Galati,
sister of Felicia,
powerful teacher, pioneer leader, friend.

For Maria from Marsha Forest and Jack Pearpoint

You left us too soon
but your tune
is being heard around the world.
You were our teacher,
the preacher at age five
of full inclusion
of “all means all!”.

You clearly heard the call.
You showed us a new way and
as we watched you play
we saw a scene unfold
and we grew bold.
This world is much better
because of you.

Your gift rings true.

You are our teacher.

You lead the way.
You taught us all to stop
and see
the children
laugh and play.

We thank and honour you and your loving family for being part of our life.

A fund will be set up in your name to assist other children to be fully included in their schools and communities.

A Yearly talk will be given by a person chosen by your family at the Toronto Summer Institute. This will be called the Maria Galati Lecture. The first lecture in 1999 will be by your long time friend and advocate Mr. Jim Hansen.

And most of all we pledge to you that your friends will never stop their work until all children belong as you did to a loving and accepting family and community.

Ruby Slippers       by Rose Galati

It was December 15, 1980. It was the day after Felicia’s sixth birthday. I don’t remember the time, but I remember the feeling as if it were happening at this very moment. My insides are jelly and my eyes are getting teary as I stamp out a flow of words on my computer. Little Maria’s bags were packed and my Mother had come to help my husband Dominic do what I could not help him to do. They took my baby to a group home for young people labeled with disabilities in downtown Toronto. It was, at the time, Ceci’s Homes for Children. I laid my head on the mattress of Maria’s crib for a long time and just breathed in what was left of my child. Dominic and I struggled to reach the weekend so that we could bring her home for a couple of days and the pattern was established. We brought Maria home every weekend with very few exceptions.

Visits to the hospital were plentiful in the early years of our children’s lives and so one visit melted into another, but Maria’s first Christmas was one I would not forget because we spent Christmas Eve at Sick Children’s with our baby and doctors who were hard pressed to find out why Maria had such a high fever. Six months after Maria had moved to Ceci’s, we discovered that her weight had dropped from not a hefty 21 lbs for a 21 month old, to a scary 17 lbs for a two year old. We proceeded to address these medical issues by providing Maria with a constant dose of antibiotics for the fever and more Italian spices for her food.

It took almost 4 YEARS and many stories, a roller-coaster of stories before we met people who could help us understand what was happening around us and before we learned that this was not what we wanted for the rest of our lives for Maria or ourselves and our eldest daughter, Felicia. We’ll never forget the meeting we had with the education consultant of the group home at a restaurant called the Fish Market. Up to that point I don’t think anyone ever asked Dominic and I the right questions, but on this day, this woman looked at us and said, “Why is Maria at Ceci’s?” No one else ever dared to ask us why she remained there. We felt that we knew why she had left in the first place but the reason for her leaving was not the same as our reason for leaving her there. In short my answer was, “What will happen if I die?” but the real answer was that we were stuck in a model and didn’t know how to get out. It became obvious that day that the existing services did not fit with the energy of our family and we decided to embark on the road that would ultimately bring Maria back to Mississauga to live with us.

On Friday, April 5, 1985, at 3:00 in the afternoon Maria came home. Again I remember the feelings as though this is happening now. I remember looking at her as she sat in a little seat on the floor in the kitchen. I looked down at her after my two hearts bid and a lousy hand and said to Dom and my sister and brother-in-law, “Maria used to miss Friday night bridge.”

Maria no longer misses bridge or birthdays or shopping or mealtimes or long baths and snuggles or family trips and relatives or anything else. Missing made her sick and prone to weight loss. That so many years ago we forgot to address Maria’s emotional needs and our own. Over the past 10 years we have learned an unbelievable amount about ourselves and about community. One of our teachers returned to join her sister. We have never regretted for even a moment Maria’s move back home but we still sometimes wish that we could have changed the lost years between December 15, 1980 and April 5, 1985. The constant dose of antibiotics stopped almost as soon as Maria returned and her weight began to increase immediately as well. There are very few days that do not begin with laughter in our house. Felicia and Maria begin every day in a good mood, with bright happy eyes. I like to think that these are the windows to happy souls, too. I know that they are strong souls because what we have had to endure from the school system especially has been very hurtful.

The past ten years have been great and have given our family a strong foundation upon which to build a better future filled with the right questions and brimming with the energy gained form creating new options.

We will enlist the help of our close friends, relatives, neighbours and mentors past and present so that we will never again be as vulnerable as we were in 1980. We will move into a new future with both of our daughters and a wonderful support team to take us into a new tomorrow.


It’s story time,
The children gather ’round
cross legged on the floor,
eager minds
to the next chapter
of the story.
The teacher reads.

One child,
is tenderly,
lovingly held.
Her limp and fragile form
in their
young and willing

Innocence, enshrined
in her tiny
disabled body
joy and wonder
to those
fortunate enough to
embrace her.

The smile of His presence
is visible here ­
oh, beautiful
child of God!

She is more
than challenge.

She is
an angel
in our midst!

Maureen Malloy,
St. Basil School, 1987