On December 30, 2009 JoAnn Bayer died in a nursing home in
Dr. Robert Kilbury, Director, Division of Rehabilitation Services, Illinois Department of Human Services
- Need some folks from the community to show up at a DORS Appropriation Hearing?
- Need someone to write a letter to the editor about personal assistance wages?
- Planning a disability rights rally that requires a number of pwd's to attend?
For many years in
I will always have a living memory of JoAnn with her Bella Abzug hat on, with her long-time personal assistant, Bessie, standing next to her. I will miss JoAnn Bayer very much; "What's up, Doc?"
How do we begin to remember JoAnn? As far back as I have memories of coming to
I have one memory of a bonding experience with her. Many years ago before I lived here and had any idea where anything was, I was in town for a weekend event. JoAnn and I were talking, and discovered that we were both Catholic. She asked me if I would like to go to church with her, and I did. I followed her down streets until I had no idea where I was. She knew where curb cuts were and was not, when we had to roll in the street, and when we had to ask for help. She took me to a beautiful old church, which has subsequently been torn down. As I basked in the solemnity of the ceremonies, I knew so well, I watched her share that experience. After mass was over, it was clear that everyone at that church knew her, and she was determined that they would know me as well. I cannot imagine royalty being treated any better. Then we left that beautiful setting and worked our way back to the hotel, two girls intent on having fun for the evening.
JoAnn, like all of us, was a human being. She had good qualities that made us love her, and some traits that we wished she did not have. Until the end, her heart was with us, and any energy she had was given to our cause. When she could not show up any more, she could read and watch the news and call with info we might have missed. One businessperson who knew her said, “She kept me on my toes.” I responded that she kept us all on our toes. I will miss being on my toes, and I will miss JoAnn.
Mike Meiselman, Board Member – Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities in
I never noticed JoAnn Bayer was a little person. If
JoAnn was a fighter. Not just for her needs; but to meet the needs of all.
At the State Fair a couple of years ago, the Campaign for Real Choice called for demonstrations when both political parties were having their fair days. Several hundred of us gathered in front of the stage on Democrat day. When the television cameras were going to report on the politicians’ speeches the crowd would be carrying signs saying “
It was not at all the message that the politicians wanted to project. The Democratic leaders urged their followers to get in front of us so their signs would be on television instead of ours.
It was scary; some of those union guys were pretty big. Nonetheless, we began to resist; JoAnn, rocked her power chair back and forth; two inches forward one inch back; others who used power chairs followed JoAnn’s lead and slowly advanced toward the front of the stage. Others linked arms and pressed forward. The Democrats gave up and ceded the land in front of the stage to us.
JoAnn made me feel very special. She brought me candy. She held my hand. She would call me every time I had something published in the newspaper. She wished me health and peace on every Jewish Holiday. Shalom JoAnn.
Cilla Sluga, Blogger
The doctors who examined JoAnn will undoubtedly say she died of heart failure. Her health had been failing for years. But, I don’t think that is why she died now. I believed she died from a lack of community living options and was forced into a nursing home. A strong spirit like JoAnn cannot survive in a prison. So, why did she agree to go?
She got tired; really really tired. Since Bessie retired, she struggled to get quality personal assistants with enough coverage (hours) to maintain her quality of life. As you have read by the testimonials above, JoAnn was a pit-bull of a fighter. If JoAnn could not make the system work, it is beyond broken.
It tells us that not even a fighter like JoAnn cannot win alone. We need to make our movement even stronger. We need our movement to fight to pass the Community Care Act NOW; and then fight to enforce it.
Photo of JoAnn Bayer with one thumb up in the air. Next to her is a certificate for lunch with the Mayor of Springfield. She had a choice of door prizes at a conference; some were expensive, personal, or shiny. But JoAnn, ever the advocate, wanted that lunch. She had already started writing her list of things to talk about with him before the photo was taken. We know she had fun at the lunch... no word on how the Mayor fared.
If you have any memories of JoAnn you would like to share, please feel free to use the comment section below, or send them to me firstname.lastname@example.org and I will include them.