Carol Lynn Ely is remembered as an effective community advocate, who used a combination of kindness and tenacity to achieve her goals. Friends said she will be also missed for her beautiful smile, her ready laugh and her strong opinions on an array of topics ranging from disability rights to movie stars. Ely will also be missed for her flair for fashion, with a great love for the color purple in clothing, accessories or lipstick.
Ely, 59, died May 12. She was a resident of Minneapolis. Friends and professional colleagues weighed in after Ely’s death. “In every day, in very part of her life, Carol practiced and proclaimed what is possible,” said Sharon Mule.
“Carol easily disarmed people with her genuine warm and friendless – such great tools for life, but especially effective for her advocacy work,” said Kristin Dean. Ely was born September 6, 1956 in Chicago to Doris (Telfair) and Curtis Ely. She was born with cerebral palsy, but Ely and her family never let her disability stop her from leading a full life. She graduated from Chicago’s Spaulding High School and earned a bachelor’s degree and certificate in disability policy and services from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
Ely worked for several years for United Cerebral Palsy Minnesota, focusing on information and referral work. She later became a community program specialist at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration, working there for more than a decade. She was a core faculty member on the Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities Program and a content contributor for the Self-Advocacy Online website.
She was also a curator of resources on grief, loss and end-of-life, women’s issues, and parents with disabilities for the Quality Mall website. She was an actor in videos used for the College of Direct Support curriculum. Many of the videos are on YouTube.
Ely was adjunct faculty in the U of M’s Occupational Therapy Program and a leader and advocate of open conversations about people with disabilities and sexuality. She frequently was a lecturer in U of M courses and presented at conferences.
She was active in the U of M Black Faculty and Staff Association. Most recently she was working on writing a grant to help metro area high schoolers of color learn about healthcare and human service careers.
She was effective at bringing the perspectives of women of color to discussions of a wide range of issues. Carol is survived by her mother Doris Ely, Minneapolis and many other family members and friends. A GoFundMe account has been set up to help with final expenses, at www.gofundme.com/23zsbrt7
To see a tribute to Ely, go here.