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Best Practice

Vol. 9, nos. 3 & 4

On Delivery of Legal Assistance to Older Persons

December 1998

Elder Rights Advocates Lose a Treasure
By: Penelope A. Hommel
TCSG Co-Director

Earlier this year, the Elder Rights Community lost one of its most valued members -- Jacquelyn Koenig. After a courageous and hard-fought battle against cancer, Jackie died peacefully at her home on June 2, 1998, surrounded by loved ones. She died as she lived -- an example for us all -- full of love and concern for others rather than for herself and with a commitment to those of us left behind that she will continue to be there to support us in our efforts.

While the loss of Jackie, the skillful and dedicated advocate at the federal, state, and local levels, is tremendous, the loss that those of us privileged to know her will feel even more acutely, is the loss of Jackie the friend, the ever-ready source of encouragement, strength and support in all of our endeavors. Although Jackie's particular passion was for rights of long term care residents, she shared a sense of mission with all elder rights advocates. She understood completely the importance of working together toward shared goals and she was remarkable in her ability to bring us together for that purpose.

Jackie's professional life started in Cincinnati, where she moved after graduating from the University of Wisconsin. She first did counseling at a Planned Parenthood Office and then moved into the area to which she would dedicate her life's work -- protecting the rights of residents of long term care institutions. She joined PRO Seniors where she directed its very successful Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, combining her advocacy skills with her artistry and poetry to paint for the community vivid pictures of the difficulties and indignities faced by many nursing home residents. Always ready to take the lead in bringing people together, Jackie served as President of the Ohio Association of Regional Long-Term Care Ombudsmen. It was during this period in the late 70s that TCSG's Penny Hommel first met Jackie; the caring and admiration she prompted at that first meeting has only continued to increase since.

At the national level, Jackie served on the Board of Directors of the National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform (NCCNHR), and in 1994, she moved to Washington DC to become director of the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center at NCCNHR. It was here that ombudsmen and other advocates across the country had the opportunity to experience the gift of Jackie's friendship. That gift is best described by Oklahoma Ombudsman, Esther Houser writing as "Friend and Sister Advocate" in her tribute to Jackie in NCCNHR's September 1998 newsletter, Quality Care Advocate.

Jackie taught many lessons for those of us who paid attention. She had an incredible work ethic, throwing her whole heart into her task with terrific powers of concentration and creativity. The person I knew also was intensely analytic, striving to understand her own mind as well as other mysteries. Jackie was willing to discuss intimate details of her feelings and beliefs and hold them up for scrutiny in a way few of us are brave enough to try. She set a tough standard by her example, but she connected with fellow humans in a most genuine way.

... And she always knew just the right way to make us all feel better, well tended, and connected to each other in a truly loving, supportive network. I miss her, I know you miss her. But, I also know that we each have her forever in our hearts, and I am sure she is somewhere watching out for us and trying to forward the mission!

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The Center for Social Gerontology, Inc.
A National Support Center in Law and Aging
2307 Shelby Avenue  Ann Arbor, MI  48103
Tel: (734) 665-1126  Fax: (734) 665-2071