Roland W. Sykes

June 1, 1953 - March 10, 2008

06/01/1953 - 03/10/2008

Roland W. Sykes, 54, of Hope Chapel Road, Bellaire, Ohio, died Monday, March 10, 2008 at Donnell House in Washington, PA.
He was born June 1, 1953 at Bellaire, a son of the late Oscar E. and Grace Givens Sykes.
A disabled former coalminer, Roland was a much loved and respected leader in the National Disability rights movement for the past thirty-six years. He was founder and president of of GIMP, Inc. and, the largest disability news publication in the US, commander of ADAPT, preident of the board for Free Hand Press, frequent contributor for Mouth Magazine, founder of Wheelchair Pilots, Dayton, Ohio, and Wheelchair Basketball at Wright State University and was the builder of the Great White Cloud of Dayton.
In addition to his parents, Roland was preceded in death by two brothers; Robert and Richard Sykes.
Surivivng is his sister, Sharon Myers, Bellaire, Ohio, a brother, Roy Sykes, Redondo Beach, CA., his sister-in-law, Bonnie Sykes, Dayton, Ohio, five nieces; Karen Ramsey, Shari Krupa, Vicki Brown, Teresa Myers and Tinas Myer, his nephew, boB Sykes, great nieces and nephews; Brooke Stull, Cole Krupa, Dillon Krupa, Maddison Brown and the last of the Rolling R’s, his friend Roger Flint, along with thousands of friends and admirers across the country.
A foundation will be founded in Roland’s name; contributions may be made through his sister at; Sharon Myers, 65261 Hope Chapel Road, Bellaire, Ohio 43906.
Private services were held at Beck-Altmeyer Funeral Home & Crematory, St. Clairsville, Ohio.

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Cindy Marshall
8 years ago

Commander Sykes – He was taken from us much too soon. Roland is a thinker & a do-er. “Per-pondering” he called it. A lot of people talk, Roland got things done. We met at WSU. Even then he had big ideas. He not only got a degree but continued on & got his Masters. He saw that computers were the way way to educate,inform the disabled, long before there was an internet. Roland took me on my 1st plane ride.

He adapted a HobieCat sailboat & learned to sail. Then there was the Great White Cloud, I wish you could have put more miles on it. I will miss you,buddy. I will try when I can to continue the mission. You taught me well. Thanks for the adventure.

Randy Whitacre
8 years ago

I am very sorry to hear of Roland’s passing. We were very close friends at Wright State, and along with our friend Russ Smith, shared many experiences. Together we founded the wheelchair basketball team at WSU, and I participated with Roland with Wheelchair Pilots. I can remember well flying with Roland and Russ to Iowa State University for a wheelchair basketball demonstration. People could not believe it when the three of us in the plane hopped onto the wing and reassembled our wheelchairs! I must admit that when I first met Roland, I was somewhat intimidated, but I soon found that there was a kind and loyal friend behind the rough exterior of a former coal miner. Together, we gained confidence in ourselves in spite of our disabilities. After our degrees, we all went our separate ways, and I am sorry that we did not keep in close touch. I know how dedicated Roland could be, especially in assisting disabled persons like ourselves to be fully functioning members of society. Time has not erased all of the things we did together- I was telling someone not long ago of how we all went to Jed’s Steakhouse in Fairborn at least once or twice a week, and how we had the waitresses fighting over who would have our table! we gave large tips! We were not always on our best behavior, but I know now we were learning how to be the kind of people we became- Roland with his work in independent living, and I went on to be a teacher in a high school in Florida for 34 years. I know Roland will be missed, but I have my memories of the time we spent together firmly in place.

Rick L. Roberts
8 years ago

My Dear Mrs. Sykes and Family,

I’m not sure you remember me, as it’s been many years. This is Rick Roberts.

Your old neighbor being Charles & Leona McWilliams were my Grandmother & Step Grandfather. I was young, Mom & Dad were getting divorced, and it was a tuff time.

I spent many a weekend visiting them so I could spend time with my Dad who was staying with Grandma & Grandpa Mac And I couldn’t wait till the weekend so I could see Roland. Because I lived in Martins Ferry with my Mom.

That was way before his accident. He was then the floor guard at the skating rink. And without knowing, he was someone I looked up to even then. He treated me as a good friend. And my heart loved him for that. And at a time in my life that wasn’t very easy. He was my bright spot. The fun and laughter that was missing. I guess you could say he helped get me through those times.

Anyway. The last time I saw him was the day they delivered his first handicap van. I was there to see his reactions to it. My heart was ripped from my chest that day. And I never could find the strength to return. Forgive me.

But I remember every visit I had with him. Every weekend I was around him. Everything we did as younger boys back then.

I had no idea the goals he had reached in the past years. Yet somehow I am not the least bit surprised. Because that’s the heart I once knew. That was the heart I saw crushed when his life changed so drastically. And that crushed mine. Seeing his hurt destroyed me inside. I wish I had been as strong as he was.

Maybe I wasn’t what you consider a good friend to him and I’m so very sorry for that. But to me he was a great friend. One I will never forget. I never have.

My heart goes out to you and your family for your loss. God Bless You All.

God Bless Roland.

Mary Cudrik Carmean
8 years ago

To my dear friends the Sykes family, you were all like family growing up in St Clairsville, I will miss Roland and always remember the day he sang “The House of the Risen Sun” to me up in his bedroom in the attic, as a small girl with a huge crush on Roland that remains in my heart forever. Roland will always be an angel to me, and I hope that his family knows how special each Sykes family member meant to us, growing up and even now. God Bless you always. I love you.

John Lorence Jr.
8 years ago

To the family of Commander Sykes,

I have never met any of you but knew Roland for 17 years as he touched the lives of TRIPIL and ADAPT.

He was a mentor and leader who taught me many valuable lessons about working with others to promote the philosophy of equality and how it really relates to the independent living movement.

My most powerful memory of Roland was a note he left on my computer screen as I worked at and grew into an organizer of people with disabilities: “The greatest gift you can ever give someone is to make them believe.”

My condolences to you all, but know that Roland will live on in the way all should hope to spend eternity…as a positive impact on history.

Mark Jackson
8 years ago

To the Sykes family,

I never got the pleasure to meet the Commander but I’ve read and heard him speak. He has done so much for the disability community and will never be forgotten.

God Bless