Wilma Allen died last Wednesday (6 June). I worked for Wilma at the Pasadena Public Health Department in the late 90’s, and she was a founding board member at CHAP (Community Health Alliance of Pasadena)–I’ve been a consultant there since 2001. I also helped write the big proposal that garnered federal funding for the Pasadena Healthcare Link.
It wasn’t always easy to work with Wilma, but it was rewarding because the work was (and is) important. Connecting people who have limited resources to health care, involving the community in providing those services (them is us, by the way), and trying to get service providers to coordinate efforts…these are some of the mountains we tried to climb on a regular basis. Trying to do these things within the city’s bureaucracy is challenging, but Wilma was adept and tenacious.
At the top of the list entitled “Life Is Not Fair” is Good People With Horrible Diseases. Wilma suffered terribly from a debilitating disease, scleroderma. She was in pain a lot, and she endured countless efforts (including chemotherapy) to keep her condition under control. She soldiered on at work when she probably felt like being at home in bed. I would have been at home in bed, but Wilma was a fighter. She didn’t stay home, she didn’t curl up and die when doctors told her she had two years to live (that was about 12 years ago). Her vision to get people connected to the health care they need kept her up and at work. This vision kept her alive, and she fought to make it keep her alive.
Last week and over the weekend, I kept waiting for the Pasadena Star News to note Wilma’s passing. When they didn’t, I e-mailed Larry Wilson (the editor). So many others were closer to Wilma than I have been in the last few years, so I feel a little self-concious about being quoted in today’s article. At the same time, I think that the CHAP clinic is a central feature of Wilma’s legacy here in Pasadena, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to share that.
Oh Ms. Wilma, how we will miss you!