Timber saw everyone’s potential
Described as an “angel on earth” and a champion for people with disabilities, Colleen Timbers was a mainstay at Merrick Inc. for many years. Timbers, 63, died August 14 after a battle with cancer.
Timbers was a native of Wisconsin. She earned degrees from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in political science, history, and education. She taught for a time and then moved to St. Paul in 1984.
Timbers found her niche at Merrick Inc., which provides services to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In 1988, she became the program director. She was considered the soul of Merrick by many people, and juggled many roles there including teacher, change agent, regulatory expert and self-advocacy champion. Her greatest passion and joy in life was her work.
Right up to her last day, Timbers’ focus was to make sure the programs she had poured her heart and soul into were continuing with her mission, vision, and passion. Each of the clients she worked with held a unique and special place in her heart. Helping them reach their goals and aspirations were at the forefront of everything she did.
She started the Merrick North St. Paul Adult Day Services Program for people with Alzheimer’s and other memory impairments. She worked with many self-advocates and helped groups organize and get involved in the legislative process. Two of the groups she worked with, Believers in Self-Advocacy and Self-Advocates United have pledged to continue their work since her death.
Timbers also initiated the Ambassadors of Respect: Anti-Bullying program, which involved Twin Cities schools. Additionally, she assisted in creating several videos produced by Twin Cities Public Television. Timbers also served on numerous boards and committees, and presented at various conferences advocating for those with Alzheimer’s, developmental disabilities and civil rights causes.
One unique interest of hers was with weather, joining the Emergency Skywarn Team, becoming a certified storm chaser. She enjoyed spending time with her family.
Timbers is survived by her parents, Robert and Arla “Katie” Timbers; a brother and three sisters and their families. Timbers credited her parents with instilling in her the philosophy that life’s experiences of adversity and hardship prepares us all for a fulfilled life journey, and that we need to lead with solutions, not be bystanders in civil and human rights.
As Access Press went to press, service information wasn’t available. Her family plans to establish a memorial to benefit the Merrick North St. Paul Adult Day Services Program and to continue her legacy by advocating for those with developmental disabilities. Memorials can be made to the Colleen Timbers Memorial Trust Fund, Wells Fargo Bank, 11966 Business Park Blvd. No. Champlin, MN 55316
Larson was children’s advocate
A talented singer and artist, Shirley Glynn Lockwood Larson was also a long-time advocate for children with disabilities. Larson, 91, died of cancer at her Bloomington home in August.
Larson began singing as a child. She attended Washburn University and the Kansas City Conservatory of Music, but left during World War II to work for the Manhattan Project.
She married John B. Larson, and the couple had three children. One son became disabled at a young age. The Larsons later founded the Sioux Falls chapter of the Association for Retarded Children, and Shirley was its first president.
Larson’s daughter Valerie Larson Haynes said. “She had some huge challenges but she surmounted them, having a handicapped son back at a time when people were not understanding and the community didn’t have much in the way of supports.”
Larson taught music to children with disabilities and led one of the nation’s first Girl Scout troops for girls with intellectual disabilities.
Larson was a lifelong soloist of opera and oratorio, and taught voice for more than 20 years. She directed several choruses, as her family moved around the country.
Her first husband died in 1996. She later married former WCCO weatherman, Bud Kraehling, who shared her love of singing. Kraehling died in 2015. Shirley is survived by her son Mark Larson of Richfield; her daughter Valerie Haynes of Gilbertsville, New York; two granddaughters and one great-grandson. Services have been held.