FRAMINGHAM — Karen Foran Dempsey hated phrases like “wheelchair-bound” and “wheelchair-restricted.”
Dempsey noticed her motorized scooter as a present, not a burden, in accordance with her sister, Metropolis Councilor Janet Leombruno. It helped get her to locations she wanted to go.
“Karen would say, ‘No, I’m not restricted to a wheelchair. These are my wheels. These are my legs. That is my freedom,’” Leombruno recalled.
For the previous few a long time, Dempsey made a reputation for herself in Framingham as a tenacious advocate for the incapacity neighborhood, utilizing her varied roles in public workplace to make her hometown a extra accessible place.
On Christmas Eve, the College Committee member and founding father of the Framingham Incapacity Fee died unexpectedly. She was 54.
Buddies, household and colleagues say she leaves behind a legacy that gained’t quickly be forgotten.
“There’s simply going to be an unbelievable void,” stated Framingham Incapacity Fee Chairman Ricky Finlay. “No one goes to have the ability to fill these footwear.”
On the age of two, Dempsey was recognized with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, a type of arthritis that causes joint irritation and stiffness in youngsters beneath age 16.
From a younger age, Dempsey may see how severely missing Framingham was in accommodating individuals with disabilities. When she was 12, she fell down a flight of stairs at Cameron Center College after the principal on the time refused to let her use the varsity’s elevator, in accordance with Leombruno.
That incident made her situation worse, and he or she was by no means capable of stroll once more, Leombruno stated.
Her father determined to run for College Committee after the incident to grow to be an advocate for these with disabilities.
All through her younger life, Dempsey underwent quite a lot of surgical procedures. After graduating from Marian Excessive College, she went on to attend Regis School in Weston, incomes a level in sociology and communications — one thing docs beforehand had stated could be tough given her well being points.
However Leombruno stated her sister was used to pushing by means of adversity and defying the percentages. She would go on to additionally take many grasp degree programs in psychology counseling.
In 1994, Dempsesy grew to become an administrative assistant at Framingham State College’s lately shaped incapacity providers workplace.
In that function, she helped design the faculty’s incapacity handbook and brochures, in accordance with Dennis Porselli, FSU’s first incapacity coordinator.
In 1995, Dempsey helped set up the MetroWest Radio Studying Service, studying the Middlesex Information (now the MetroWest Day by day Information) over the radio for blind individuals and others who have been unable to learn the newspaper in its printed type.
In 2002, Porselli and Dempsey shaped the Framingham Incapacity Fee.
Dempsey pushed for higher entry of Framingham’s providers and buildings. From working with the MetroWest Heart for Impartial Dwelling to her persistence in advocating for renovating public buildings, Dempsey labored by means of the purple tape and shaped sturdy relationships to get outcomes, Porselli defined.
Considered one of her biggest successes was her push for the renovation of Village Corridor to make it ADA compliant. In 2017, throughout Framingham’s last City Assembly (it grew to become a metropolis the next 12 months), residents approved spending $2.four million to renovate the constructing, which included additions to make it extra accessible.
“She was very a lot into constructing bridges,” Porselli stated. “She had character. She knew how you can discuss to individuals. She knew how you can chortle and socialize with one of the best of them.”
Metropolis Council Chairman George King, who was city supervisor of Framingham from 1999 to 2005, remembers Dempsey being instrumental in serving to Framingham grow to be extra accessible.
He admired her softspoken nature and calm demeanor. She was all the time respectful, variety and advocated for others fiercely, by no means letting her personal well being issues get in the way in which of her mission, he stated.
“I by no means considered her as somebody who suffered from her personal disabilities,” King stated. “ I hadn’t considered her that means as a result of she by no means let it intervene with what she did, which is outstanding. I don’t suppose I may have achieved one thing like that. As a substitute, she used it as gasoline for the hearth to do the nice work she did.”
As soon as Porselli left Framingham in 2009, Dempsey served as chair of the Incapacity Fee till she started serving on the College Committee early this 12 months.
Whereas with the College Committee, Dempsey served on three subcommittees, together with one for Fairness, Inclusion and Variety, one other for Well being and Wellness and a 3rd for Buildings and Grounds. She additionally served as committee liaison to the Particular Training Father or mother Advisory Council.
Whereas she could have been a newcomer to the College Committee, she introduced a long time of expertise, stated committee Chairman Adam Freudberg. She pushed for supporting college students who used particular schooling providers and for these with disabilities, and targeted on serving to individuals who didn’t have a robust voice, he stated.
“She did it so respectfully and so thoughtfully,” Freudberg stated. “There’s now a serious hole and I’m nonetheless scuffling with this stunning loss.”
Freudberg stated the committee will proceed to advocate Dempsey’s mission. In February, he stated it’s going to act to revive $300,000 in ADA incapacity act funds that Mayor Yvonne Spicer reduce from capital plan submission.
Dempsey additionally served as a City Assembly member for practically 20 years, and served on Client Advisory Committee for the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority, in addition to the MetroWest Trip Service. She additionally labored as a self employed medical teacher at Tufts College and served as a incapacity marketing consultant.
Mark Dempsey, her husband, stated his spouse all the time tried to stay constructive and had a decided selfless perspective. He, like his spouse, additionally suffers from arthritis. Between the 2 of them, they’ve had dozens of surgical procedures, he stated.
“It wasn’t about her. It was all the time about let’s get it achieved for this neighborhood. Let’s get it achieved for everyone else,” Mark Dempsey stated.
Throughout a Incapacity Fee assembly on Dec. 17, Karen Dempsey spoke of town’s grasp plan and the way the Incapacity Fee wasn’t included in it, her husband recalled.
“One saying that got here out of the incapacity motion is ‘nothing about us with out us.’ She introduced that up,” Mark Dempsey stated.
Exterior of her advocacy, Dempsey beloved to journey, go to eating places and spend time along with her husband and fraternal twin teenage boys.
Kathy Foran, her an identical twin sister, stated Dempsey was all the time looking for the pursuits of others earlier than herself. She remembers Dempsey all the time looking for Foran’s considerations over her personal. They all the time joked that Kathy was the infant as a result of she was born 11 minutes after Karen.
She was her different half and finest buddy, Foran stated.
“She was very participating and all the time smiling, and would attempt to choose any individual up in the event that they have been feeling down,” she stated.
Foran stated regardless that her sister lived in fixed ache, she by no means let it hamper her advocacy for others, and her final purpose was easy: to supply equal entry to all.
“She by no means had a chip on her shoulder and by no means was indignant or say, ‘Why me?’ by no means,” Foran stated.
With the present well being restrictions in place due to the pandemic, the household plans non-public providers honoring Dempsey’s life, with plans for a public ceremony later. A remembrance video may be discovered on Dempsey’s obituary at https://www.mccarthyfh.com/obituary/Karen-ForanDempsey www.mccarthyfh.com/obituray /Karen-ForanDempsey.
Cesareo Contreras writes about environmental points and expertise for the Day by day Information. He may be reached at 508-626-3957 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comply with him on Twitter @cesareo_r.