Known for his integrity, loyalty, compassion for others, and formidable comedic streak, Peter S. Kahrmann is a writer, public speaker, human rights advocate, and founder of the Kahrmann Advocacy Coalition.
The course of Mr. Kahrmann’s life went through a tectonic change when he was held up and shot in the head at point blank range in August 1984. The bullet remains lodged in his brain.
Mr. Kahrmann is a co-founder and former board member of the New York City Chapter of Victims for Victims, a past member of the NY State Independent Living Council and a former board member of the Brain Injury Association of NY State.
His loyalty to the rights of others was put to the test in 2008 when some members of New York State’s healthcare community sought to intimidate him by making it clear he would lose his entire income if he exposed a Albany-based brain injury waiver program, in which he facilitated workshops, for denying the rights of program participants (some were American veterans). Mr. Kahrmann refused to stop advocating for the rights of the program participants and, as a result, the the company was exposed, Mr. Kahrmann lost his job, his income, and found himself blacklisted from working for waiver providers.
Mr. Kahrmann went back on disability and began forming the Kahrmann Advocacy Coalition, a grassroots disability rights group. He soon exposed the New York State contact employee who had the most power of waiver providers and participants for misrepresenting his educational credentials.
Some elements of Mr. Kahrmann’s background help explain why he did not flinch when threatened. Even more, they help explain the man.
Mr. Kahrmann was adopted when he was five weeks old. At age eight he began to take ballet lessons. He excelled. At 13 he landed a lead role in a ballet called “Elegy” for the Joffrey Ballet Company. Growing up he was closest to his father, Sanford C. Kahrmann, an English teacher at Columbia University and John Jay College for Criminal Justice.
The world changed for Mr. Kahrmann when he was 15. His father died unexpectedly on August 16, 1969; he was 55. Sixteen weeks later Mr. Kahrmann’s mother had him placed in reform school on a PINS (Person In Need of Supervision) petition. In those days, family courts tended to acquiesce to the wishes of the guardian, the voice of the child was given short shrift, as it were. In sixteen weeks, Mr. Kahrmann had lost the person he loved the most in the world and his family. While he and his mother would reconcile nearly 10 years later, he was never allowed back into the family again.
After his release from reform school, Mr. Kahrmann experience two years of homelessness. Slowly, through odd jobs and the help of friends, he clawed his way back.
In the 1970s and 1980s Mr. Kahrmann began to write plays, for a time acting with the Raymond Barry’s Quena Acting Company, an offshoot of Joseph Chaikin’s Open Theatre. Everything changed with the 1984 shooting.
In 1987 Mr. Kahrmann searched for and was reunited with his birth-mother. The two became very close. She died of liver cancer in December 2001. His adoptive mother committed suicide in 1992.
Mr. Kahrmann has been involved in the field of brain injury for nearly 20 years. He has been a writer and freelance journalist for well over 30 years, having published news, features, and columns for a range of publications including Ottaway Newspapers and Vermont’s Bennington Banner. He began the widely read Kahrmann Blog in December 2006. He currently writes a column for the national disability newspaper, Independence Today, short stories, and, as he puts it, “the occasional poem.”
He is close to finishing a memoir, lives in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, is a devoted fan of hockey’s New York Rangers, and lives with an assistance dog named Charley. He loves exercise, nature, comedy (his own and others), friendship, kindness, hiking, camping, biking, a wide range of music, good conversation, and, not surprisingly, reading, with a special fondness for Dickens, Trollope, Anna Quindlen, James Salter, J.G. Farrell, Edith Wharton, Jon Dos Passos, Steinbeck and more.