We at Health Access California were saddened to hear of the recent passing of our former board chair of five years, Frances Gracechild, a lifelong disability and senior rights advocate, who also served as executive director of Resources for Independent Living (RIL) in Sacramento since 1981.
Her death at 71 years old was a surprise to many; her life was remembered in a touching post by Marty Omoto of the California Disability Community Action Network, and she had an impact to many at RIL, Health Access, and the broader advocacy community in Sacramento.
Frances was incredibly welcoming and helpful to me when she was the chair of the Health Access board when I was first hired by the organization in 2001. She served not just as a representative of the disability community, but as a health advocate in her own right–for everything as a major spokesperson fighting for the Patients Bill of Rights to the ongoing effort for universal health care. She stepped down soon afterwards after five years of service, but we continued to work with her on various issues–most notably in pushing back against proposed budget cuts to health and human services proposed by Governor Schwarzenegger and others. This clip from one of many rallies shows her passion and eloquence and ability to weave the personal with the political:
In addition to her decades-long role as executive director of Resources for Independent Living (RIL) Sacramento’s independent living center, she also had been serving, since 2008, as a board member of Sacramento’s Paratransit, Inc. She was a leader in the Sacramento community on a range of issues, and will be sorely missed.