Steve Stokes, the longtime director of the state Office of Disability Concerns, used a wheelchair to get around but hardly could be considered confined to it.
Stokes died Thursday after suffering a heart attack. He was 62.
His funeral is set for 11 a.m. Saturday at the Stufflebean-Coffey Funeral Home in Pauls Valley.
“Steve Stokes was a dedicated public servant who worked diligently to help disabled Oklahomans to pursue their life goals,” Gov. Mary Fallin said. “He will be missed by many friends and colleagues.”
Stokes was appointed director of the state agency in 1989 by then-Gov. Henry Bellmon.
Stokes was disabled in 1967 at the age of 17 when he suffered a spinal cord injury in a diving accident. He graduated from East Central University in Ada in 1973 and was hired as a counselor at East Central for its special services project. He earned a master's degree from East Central in 1974.
He went to work for the state Education Department in 1980 and remained there until he was appointed to head the Office of Disability Concerns. Stokes worked under five governors — Bellmon, David Walters, Frank Keating, Brad Henry and Fallin.
As director of the agency, Stokes worked with lawmakers to help with legislation intended to assist Oklahomans with disabilities, as well as their families and friends.
“Steve Stokes did more for people with disabilities than any other person I have known and he did it from his wheelchair,” said Pam Henry, chairman of the Oklahoma City Mayor's Committee on Disability Concerns. “His sense of humor was refreshing and made light of the mobility disability that we shared.
“Steve was an outstanding director of the Oklahoma Office of Disability Concerns because he could work with people with disabilities, governors, state legislators and the public,” she said.
In 1975, Stokes served as a delegate to the White House Conference on the Handicapped and in 1985 he was named handicapped citizen of the year for Oklahoma.
In 2007, Stokes received the George B. Lewis Award, named after the former chairman of the Oklahoma City Mayor's Committee on Disability Concerns, for his work in helping Oklahomans with disabilities.