In Memoriam – April 2020

Laubignat was rehabilitation counselor, volunteer Corbett Marie Ku’u Aloha Laubignat was a dedicated disability rights activist, with involvement with several […]

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Laubignat was rehabilitation counselor, volunteer

Corbett Marie Ku’u Aloha Laubignat was a dedicated disability rights activist, with involvement with several disability services organization. Laubignat died suddenly in March. She was 40 and lived in Minneapolis. 

Born in Hawaii, Laubignat received her master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in 2006. She was certified as a rehabilitation counselor, and had recently branched out into work as an inclusion and diversity consultant. 

Corbett Laubignat

She dedicated her career and volunteer time to helping others. Laubignat was on the front lines in the fight against ableism. Her volunteer activities included service on the board of Helping Paws Minnesota. 

Laubignat most recently worked for the University of Minnesota in the Disability Resource Center as a senior access consultant. She previously was the disability services coordinator for the McNally Smith College of Music, and was an independent living specialist and peer mentor coordinator at the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living (MCIL), both in St. Paul. 

Corbett touched the lives of many throughout her career by helping them embrace their disabilities and encouraged them to become advocates for themselves. She and her wife Ashely Groshek were strong advocates for the LBGTQ+ community. They were together for 19 years. 

Laubignat is survived by her wife Ashley and Ashley’s family, her mother, her brother and his family, along with many friends. Corbett is also survived by her beloved companion and service dog, Jerry and her and Ashley’s family dog Jenga. She was preceded in death by her father Paul and Rocky, her first service dog, Rocky. Services were to be held after this issue of Access Press went to press. Memorials should be sent to the Corbett Laubignat Legacy Fund at Helping Paws Minnesota. 

Ellwood a leader in parenting work

Ann Ellwood was a leader in family support services, with a focus on peer-to-peer parenting work. Ellwood, who founded Minnesota Early Learning Design or MELD in the 1970s, died in February. She was 92 and most recently lived in Massachusetts. 

MELD became a national model and was even replicated in some counties. Ellwood was MELD’s executive director for several years. She interviewed experts and came up with parenting groups, at a time when most programs focused solely on children. 

“She got a national movement going and I think she made a real difference in America,” former Vice President Walter Mondale told the Star Tribune. During his days in the U.S. Senate, Mondale reached out to Ellwood and encouraged her to work on ideas for children and youth. 

Ann Ellwood

“Our philosophy is simple,” she once said in an interview. “We believe that if you can empower parents to deal with their own problems, you can change the whole family.” Some of the MELD groups focused on families with a disabled child. 

Ellwood was born in Pennsylvania. Her family later moved to California, where she earned a degree from University of California-Berkeley. She taught kindergarten in San Francisco before moving to Minneapolis with then-husband Dr. Paul Ellwood. They divorced in 1990. 

Ellwood worked at the Greater Minneapolis Day Care Association before launching MELD. It operated for many years but has been replaced by other organizations. 

She retired in 1995 and received various accolades and awards over the years, including the Hubert H. Humphrey Public Leadership Award from the University of Minnesota in 2005. 

Ellwood is survived by three adult children and their families. Instead of a service, her family has created an online memorial at

Henze a rehabilitation pioneer

Dr. Richard Henze is remembered as a pioneer in Minnesota’s rehabilitation community. Henze, 86, died in March after a series of health issues. 

Born in Delano, Henze received BA, MA and PhD degrees in psychology from the University of Minnesota. He devoted his life to working with people with disabilities, initially as a vocational rehabilitation counselor. 

Dr. Richard Henze

In the late 1960s he was asked by an organization of local school districts to develop a program for severely mentally and physically handicapped students. After obtaining a grant from the federal government, he founded the Cooperative Student Rehabilitation Center at Glen Lake. Under his direction, the public school program grew to serve more than 300 students annually. It provided training in basic living skills as well as vocational training and placement in community jobs 

He retired at age 55 but later went into private practice as a psychologist, helping others obtain Social Security disability benefits. He and his family enjoyed a wide range of activities together. 

Henze is survived by his wife of 64 years, Diane; three children and their families. A memorial service will be held at a later date. 

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