We remember them

George C. Hall

George Hall was a leader.  Hall served eight years on the MCIL Board, and was its chairperson for much of that time. He brought organizational skills, strong leadership and a personal understanding of disability to that board role. He is also remembered as a fair and thoughtful board chairman. He was an active participant in numerous MCIL programs and events. Professionally Hall was a program assistant for the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). He was an Eagle Scout as a young man and later served in the military in Vietnam. He was also active in the Grand Master Pryor Mountain Lodge in Billings, MT.

Hall lived Multiple Sclerosis the later part of his life. Hall died April 25 at the Augustana Care Center in Minneapolis. He was 65 years old and had lived in Minneapolis for many years.

Hall is survived by his wife, Stephanie; son, William (Alyssa); daughter, Heather Lawrence; a sister and many cousins. Memorial services wren held April 28 at Gethsemane Episcopal Church in Minneapolis. Hall was buried in a private ceremony at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

 

 

Jeffrey Farnam’s imagination soared 

Inventor, photographer, pilot and longtime City of Minneapolis employee Jeffrey R. “Jeff” Farnam died April 11 after battling cancer. He was 64. A memorial service is 3 p.m. Sunday, June 10 at First Universalist Church, 2400 Dupont Ave., Minneapolis. The service will be followed at 5:30 p.m. with a reception at the Minneapolis Photography Center, 2400 2nd Ave. N., Minneapolis.

 Farnam is remembered by many as a remarkable man whose upbeat demeanor and interest in the world around him led him to try many things.  He was an inventor and in his work and volunteer activities, he was always one to try to make things better.

He and his service dog, Reggie, were fixtures in Minneapolis’ Uptown neighborhood.

At 15, Farnam broke his neck when he fell out of a tree he was trimming at a church. He lost the use of

his legs and had limited use of his hands after that. Farnham used a wheelchair and service dog, and had 24-hour in-home care. Yet a Star Tribune article and other tributes noted his many unique and diverse accomplishments.

In the late 1980s, Farnam collaborated with Mark Jensen on a photo exhibit capturing the “Faces and Facades” of Block E in Minneapolis. The exhibit was prepared over a 15-year period, with images of people and places in the now-demolished downtown area. It was displayed in the Hennepin County Government Center. Farman also took photography classes and was a member of the F-stop Group at the photography center.

Farnam once told an interviewer that he never gave photography a thought as a career or even a hobby. But he did admit to catching the “bug” and enjoying taking pictures.

“I never had another student like Jeff,” his flight instructor, Linda Dowdy, told the Star Tribune. “When I asked him why he wanted to fly, he told me about hanging around airports and listening to pilots talk.”

Dowdy said just thinking about his love of flying, “still makes me choke up.

On a blog post, Dowby wrote that Farnham once said, “I guess I just wanted a piece of the magic for myself.”

Farnam’s paralysis meant he had to be hoisted into the cockpit with a sling-type device. He was never allowed to fly solo. But that didn’t deter him from flying as often as possible.

Julian Farnam said his half-brother “had just a tremendous spirit for life. He was very, very passionate in multiple areas” and was served well by having “the right sense of humor with some cynicism sprinkled in there.”

Jeffrey Farnam was also an inventor. He held several patents for various wheelchair designs, including one with four-wheel drive. In a 1992 newspaper interview  he said, “Initially, it may be sold to rugged individualists or people paying for it themselves [rather than third-party providers]. . . I don’t see it as being the standard chair of tomorrow at all. But I do see a lot of people who depend on motorized wheelchairs, who go outdoors, who take the bus, drive their own vans, who would benefit from this.”

Jeffrey Farnam graduated from Minneapolis Washburn High School in 1965 and then earned a degree in economics from the University of Minnesota. He worked as an administrative analyst in the Minneapolis city coordinator’s office until he retired.

He is survived by his half-brother Julian and sister Laurie Farnam.

 

 

Karen Boersma: from poster child to activist

In her lifetime, Karen Boersma went from poster child to self-advocate. The long-time disability rights advocate, quadriplegic and Golden Valley resident died in March at age 65. At her passing she was remembered as someone who was kind, yet had a steely determination to fight injustice.

She was well-known for her efforts to deal with fraudulent personal care attendant (PCA) agencies and her work for the rights of both PCAs and their clients.

Services for Boersma will be held Friday, May 11 at Wayzata Evangelical Free Church, 705 County Road 101 N., Plymouth.
Friends recall her tenacity and strength. “She was looking at it not from a ‘poor me’ kind of view, it was a human rights point of view,” friend Mary Catherine Senander of Golden Valley told an interviewer. “She had a profound reverence for life. … It wasn’t that a person is disabled or abled, but created by God.”

Added Sadika Mujik, Boersma’s PCA, “She was always the happiest person, that’s the part of her I’ll always remember.”

Born in 1947, with cerebral palsy, Boersma used a wheelchair  for most of her life. She was adopted and raised by a remarkable woman, Berniece Boersma of Robbinsdale.

Berniece Boersma adopted another daughter, Jeanette, and cared for more than 250 foster children over the years. After her mother’s death in 1991, Karen Boersma recalled how the family had at least five children at home at any one time.

In 1954, when she was seven years old, she became the first poster child for United Cerebral Palsy.

Karen Boersma graduated from Minneapolis’s Marshall University High School and then earned an accounting degree from Minneapolis Business College. In 1976, at age 29, she was seriously injured in an auto accident. Her injuries caused her to lose the use of one arm.

Karen Boersma was well-known for fighting what she saw as injustice to people with disabilities. Several years ago she filed a discrimination complaint when she believed she’d been wrongly fired from an accounting job. Friends recalled how she won that case.

She was also well-known at the state capitol. One key focus of her lobbying was personal care attendant (PCA) agencies, especially those believed to be committing fraud. She spoke from personal experience. In 2009, Boersma testified before state legislators about welfare fraud and the lack of oversight of PCA agencies. She also was to be a witness last year in a federal health care fraud case. But care provider John Momoh of Brooklyn Park pleaded guilty and in January was sentenced to two years in prison.

As a result of that experience, Boersma and her own PCA had planned to open their own agency. But those plans didn’t materialize before her death. She told the Star Tribune in 2009 that “it’s the only way I can be sure that both I and the [care attendants] who work for me will be treated with the respect we deserve.”

1 Comment

  1. Just a quick note… Jeff Farnam’s Memorial Service on June 10th is at: 1st Universalist Church, 3400 (not 2400) Dupont Avenue South, Mpls, MN

    Thank you for a wonderful article about my brother!

    Laurie Farnam

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