Loyse Hurley: forever young

Chatham County lost one of its most stalwart and inspirational grassroots leaders with the death this week of Loyse Hurley, long-time president of Chatham Citizens for Effective Communities (CCEC).

I lost a devoted friend, colleague and advisor, and someone I dearly loved.

What is the measure of a person’s life? It is not the money one accumulates, the property one owns, the degree one earns, or the awards one wins.  The true measure of a person’s life is what she does to impact positively on the lives of others and that of her community.  By this measure, Loyse’s life was immeasurable.

As president and chief public advocate for CCEC, and as a mentor and advisor to citizen leaders, candidates and elected officials, Loyse modeled a fair and fact-based approach to public policy advocacy and analysis.  The strong grassroots support  we see in our community for environmental protection, preservation of rural character and  balanced land-use planning owes a great deal to her leadership.

Thus, I propose the creation of the annual Loyse Hurley Award for Citizen Advocacy and Leadership for the grass roots advocate who best demonstrates her respectful, fact-based advocacy. Maybe CCEC will have ideas about how to develop this.

I know Loyse  had a personal impact on my life, and I have seen considerable evidence that she inspired many others who had the privilege of knowing her.

Lo, as we affectionately called her, was the most amazing listener and counselor.  I doubt if anything I wrote or did in terms of public advocacy or community organizing occurred without my first consulting with her. We had a standing arrangement. Whenever I was fired up about something and whipped out an e-mail or proposed a statement or speech about it, I always sent a draft first to Lo for her dispassionate evaluation and advice. Many of those e-mails or letters thankfully never saw the light of day after Lo reviewed them.  And others were toned down appropriately with her edits.
When I was down or upset by the harshness of public discourse, Lo always lifted my spirit and bucked up my determination to get back in the game.

As Lo became sick over the last year, I missed having her wise counsel as much as I had in the past. At first this made me feel lonely and untethered. But I learned to ask myself, “What would Lo do?“ and the answer would come in my conscious recollection of her words and example.

Many of us are deeply saddened by Lo’s death. But I take comfort in knowing that we can also celebrate her life by carrying her spirit and voice with us each day as we try to be a bit more like Lo.

I conclude with this tribute to Lo, taken from Bob Dylan’s song Forever Young:  Lo, you grew up to be righteous, you grew up to be true, you always knew the truth, and saw the light surrounding you. You always were courageous, you stood upright and were strong….Your hands were always busy, your feet were always swift, you had a strong foundation when the winds of change did shift, your heart was always joyful, and your song will always be sung, you will stay forever young.

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