MORTON — This is an exciting and scary time for Dane and Lori Strube.

They moved their daughter Nicki, 29, into a three-bedroom home in Morton last month.

Diagnosed with cognitive delay, autism and cerebral palsy, Nicki has overcome those obstacles to graduate from high school and join the work world.

She's assisted with breakfast service at a hotel, done filing, and worked with toddlers and senior citizens.

Now her parents want her to live as independently as possible, so they bought a home for her in Morton, a few hours drive away from the family's home outside Monticello.

Why Morton?

For one thing, Nicki's big sister, Megan Levitt, 31, lives in Morton with her husband and two young children.

"Megan has been pushing us for years to move Nicki into her own home in Morton, where she can learn to live independently," said Dane Strube.

Levitt doesn't take all the credit for the impetus behind the life-changing move for her sister.

"Getting Nicki to live independently has been a goal for all of us in the family," she said. "I've been telling my parents for a few years we need to do something sooner than later because the older a special needs adult gets, the harder it is to accept change.

"I know my sister, and I know what the Morton community has to offer to those with special needs. That's why I've been telling my parents we need to move Nicki here."

Levitt's expertise about those with special needs comes from her profession.

She's a decorated special education teacher in the Morton School District.

She received the Master Potter Excellence in Education Award, the highest annual honor bestowed on a district teacher, for the 2014-15 school year.

After eight years teaching at Morton High School, Levitt has spent two years at Lincoln Elementary School, which is a short walk from Nicki's new home.

"We didn't set out to find a home for Nicki near Lincoln. It just worked out that way," Levitt said. "Besides having Nicki live close to the school where I work, one of Nicki's neighbors also works in the Morton School District. I know this person and adore him. He'll keep an eye on Nicki."

The Heart of Morton support group, made up of parents of young adults with cognitive disabilities, has been a big help to the Strube family.

"We really appreciate the Heart of Morton group," said Dane Strube. "We know this is going to be a challenging chapter in Nicki's life, but with the help of her sister and family and mostly the Morton community, it will be rewarding."

The challenges have already begun.

"Nicki is nervous," her father said. "She's having a difficult time comprehending what's happening."

"Change is difficult for anyone," said Levitt, who is certain Nicki will be more comfortable with her new surroundings as time goes on.

Levitt is looking forward to this summer, when Nicki can spend time with her and her husband, Rob, and their daughters Karis, 6, and Brinley, 3.

Even though Nicki is in her new home, her relocation isn't complete. Her father and mother are taking turns staying with her, but that's not a permanent arrangement.

Dane and Lori Strube are looking for two female roommates for Nicki who have similar special needs. Each roommate will have a personal support worker, like Nicki does, to help with daily activities.

Also needed is a female, perhaps a college student, who will live in the home with the young women. A rent-free and utilities-free private living space will be provided for the female in the home's basement.

Families with a special needs young adult and those interested in living in the basement space can call Lori Strube at (217) 552-4779 or send an email to Dane Strube at

Dane Strube said Tazewell County Resource Centers is helping his family in the search for roommates for Nicki and in finding her a job.


Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.