Bruce Blower Headshot

The Founding Director of the Suffolk County Office of Handicapped Services (now the Office for People with Disabilities) Bruce Blower died on Nov. 4, 2023 from cardiac arrest. He was surrounded by his second wife Doris Blower and members of their blended family.

Blower, who was born in Brooklyn in 1937, was 86 years old. He was married to Doris Blower for 32 years. They met when she worked for Handicapped Services for the Town of Islip. “He was a good man,” said Doris Blower. “Bruce was one of those people who if he said he was going to do something, he did it. His motto was ‘Life’s a hill, get over it.’ And he had a lot of hills to get over.”

He earned a degree in business administration from Hofstra University, where he learned journalism techniques and was the recipient of the university’s George M. Estabrook Distinguished Service Award for outstanding achievement. After college, he wrote for the Long Islander Newspaper and then as a US Army 2nd Lieutenant, Blower was an MP (340th Military Police Company) in the 101st Airborne Division: The Screaming Eagles. In 1964, he was honorably retired after contracting polio which left him a quadriplegic.

Determined to make a career for himself despite his disability he worked as a legislative aide to the late Assembly member John Flanagan, who was former chairman of the state Rehabilitation Council. Blower soon became interested in the needs of people with disabilities. He lobbied then-Suffolk County Exec. Peter Cohalan to start an office to help people with disabilities. Cohalan agreed and asked Blower to head it.

Blower established the Suffolk County Office of Handicapped Services in 1980 and continued to lead it for 29 years. The office was one of the first such county departments to start a technical assistance program for local businesses, commercial establishments, institutions of high learning, transportation providers, housing authorities and health care systems facilities, so that community institutions could voluntarily become models of accessibility and usability. He served at the pleasure of five County Executives – three Republicans and two Democrats. During his tenure the office won 23 notable national awards for implementing groundbreaking programs.

“Bruce was able to communicate with the disability community and effectively advocated on its behalf with Suffolk County government,” said the United Spinal Association’s General Counsel James Weisman. “He was an early accessible mass transit advocate, a veteran, a United Spinal Assoc./Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Assoc. member and an old friend. He was a leader and a role model and his contribution to LI’s disabled community spans decades and is immeasurable.”
Blower was appointed to the New York State Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities by then-Gov. George Pataki – a position he continued to hold after his retirement in 2009 – and was also appointed chair of the Advisory Council to the State Advocate for People with Disabilities by Pataki. He was also a member of the Verizon Corporate Consumer Advisory Board and Verizon’s New York board where he chaired the Disabilities and Lifeline Committee.

“Bruce and I go back a half century, each working relentlessly for people with disabilities,” said advocate Roy Probeyahn. “He was a great friend and mentor. Bruce also was a joy to be around – a fun-loving guy. He was a success not only on a personal level but as a culmination of his life-long achievements, advocating for people with disabilities, professionally as the first director of what is now the Suffolk County Office of Disability Services. “He took our county into the forefront assuring the rights and protections under the law for the entire disability community of Suffolk. My deepest condolences go to Doris and the family. The disability community has lost a giant with Bruce’s passing.”

He was a founding member and past president of the Huntington Community First Aid Squad. He also served on the board of directors of the Suffolk Independent Living Organization (SILO) and penned a semi-monthly column for Able Newspaper. Blower served as Compliance Officer for Suffolk County’s Federal Americans with Disabilities Act and Chairman of the State Rehabilitation Council, which was set up by federal law; the Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID); and the Commission on the Blind and Visually Handicapped (CBVH).

“Bruce was very supportive of me when I took over the Suffolk Office of Handicapped Services,” said Frank Krotschinsky, current director of the office. “He was a strong advocate. Bruce was a good friend and I learned quite a lot from him.”

Blower is survived by his wife Doris, 5 children – Greg Blower, Elizabeth Blower and Erin Blower; Stepdaughter Susan Antonacci and Stepson Robert Leiter and three grandchildren. The Blower Family requests all donations be made to Huntington Community First Aid Squad in Bruce’s name.