Andy Adam was 20 when he told his parents he wanted to have both his legs amputated below the knees.
All through his teen years, he spent summers stuck in a hospital, getting treatment for a rare congenital disease, Charcot-Marie-Tooth. It badly damaged nerves in his legs. At one point, young Andy wound up in a body cast that he said felt like 100 pounds. Eventually, he had to have a foot amputated.
“Finally, he turned to his father when he was 20 — and this is how brave he was — he said, ‘It’s time to let them go. I can get by better on prosthetic legs,’ ’’ said Kathryn, his wife of 39 years.
Mr. Adam went on to finish college. He built a family and career. He counseled other young people who had lost limbs to disease or accidents. He lobbied businesses and restaurants if they weren’t complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
After he was diagnosed with a brain tumor four years ago, his daughter, Nicole Skaro, told him she thought he’d been dealt yet another lousy hand.
“He said, ‘I’ve lived an amazing life. I have two great kids I never thought I’d have. I fell in love with the love of my life,’ ” she said. “He goes, ‘I’m lucky. Sometimes you just stare evil in the eye, and say, come get me.’ ’’
Mr. Adam, 67, died on June 10 at his Palos Heights home.
His father was born in the coal town of Iselin, Pennsylvania. His widowed grandmother sent his father — also named Andy — to Blue Island to live with an older brother. “She’d lost one of her sons in the mines and she didn’t want to lose anymore,” Kathryn Adam said.
His mother, Antoinette Mastantuono, was from the family that founded D’Masti Catering of Blue Island.
Young Andy grew up in Blue Island, where he attended Eisenhower High School.
He and Kathryn, who grew up in Canaryville, started dating after he moved into her apartment building while both were attending Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. He got around on his new prosthetic legs. “We liked to go to Giant City State Park and walk in the woods,” she said. Sometimes they dined at Ma Hale’s, a legendary roadhouse in downstate Grand Tower that served all-you-can-eat fried chicken and apple pie.
He also joined a college wheelchair sports team that did archery, basketball and discus. The players named their team “The Squids” his wife said, “because you had to be all arms to play any of the sports.”
They married in 1977. Mr. Adam worked as a warehouse manager for 14 years in South Holland. Then he started selling leftover industrial plastic, shipping it overseas and to Canada. Later, he became a distributor of Reliv nutritional products.
They adopted their children, Nicole and Jason, two siblings who were in the state foster care system, when they were about 3 and 4 years old. “Mom and dad parented us with absolute love and acceptance,” their daughter said.
An active Boy Scout troop leader, “He was just my dad, pitching a tent and going canoeing,” Jason Adam said. “He taught me almost every successful skill I had. I had a hammer and wrench in my hand at 8 years old. I was 13 or 14 before I knew there are many amputees who don’t jump on a ladder and clean gutters.”
“Growing up, I noticed more and more how spectacular he was,” his son said.
“He gardened. He did all of the home repairs. He made a Murphy Bed last fall,’’ said his wife. “He wanted to be an example to people, to let them know they could get along without a body part.”
Mr. Adam volunteered as a counselor with FACT, Families of Amputee Children Together. “He was able to counsel several young men and help them see that life is not over,” his wife said.
He adored his dog, Muzzy, a Llewellin Setter who lived to be 18. He loved “The Godfather” and film noir classics like “Double Indemnity.” He liked listening to Karen Carpenter, James Taylor and Carole King. Mr. Adam admired the powerful interviewing of Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci.
He is also survived by his brother Wayne, and grandchildren Dominic, Vincent, Lucas and Gianna. His 2-year-old grandson Victor, nicknamed “Valiant Vito,” died in 2015 of a brain tumor. Vito wore superhero outfits in the hospital. Like his grandfather, during treatments, he used to say, “Come get me.”
Visitation is 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday at Curley Funeral Home, 6116 W. 111th, Chicago Ridge. A funeral Mass is planned at 11 a.m Tuesday, June 20, at Incarnation Church, 5757 W. 127th St., Palos Heights. Burial is at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.