Miya Rodolfo-Sioson, 1968-2008

Photo of Miya Rodolfo-Sioson Miya Rodolfo-Sioson, the lone survivor of a 1991 shooting spree on the University of Iowa campus, died of breast cancer Wednesday. She was 40. Rodolfo-Sioson died with her brother, Renato, at her side at Alameda County Medical Center-Highland Hospital in Oakland, Calif. The hospital was treating Rodolfo-Sioson for stage four breast cancer -- the most serious stage, in which cancer has spread to another organ of the body.

In a statement released by the hospital, her family said, “The family appreciates all of the support they have received from their many friends from around the country and especially the members of the disabled community.”

Rodolfo-Sioson was paralyzed from the neck down when she was shot on Nov. 1, 1991, by disgruntled UI doctoral graduate Gang Lu in an infamous campus murder-suicide spree that attracted national attention. She was one of six people Lu shot that day and the only one who survived. Lu also shot and killed himself. Rodolfo-Sioson was 23 and an undergraduate at the time, majoring in global studies and working in Jessup Hall, where she was shot.

In a statement, the UI said officials were deeply saddened to learn of Rodolfo-Sioson’s death. “She was a remarkable woman who inspired everyone she met,” the statement said. “Despite her serious injuries, she courageously dedicated her life to the service of others. We express our heartfelt sympathy and support to her family and friends.”

Rodolfo-Sioson moved to Berkeley, Calif., in 1996 with Renato after tiring of Iowa’s cold winters, she told The Gazette in 2001. Her mother already lived in Berkeley. She became an advocate on behalf of the disabled and served as chairwoman of the city’s Commission on Disability. But she rarely brought up the shooting and sometimes even told people her injuries resulted from a car accident. “Most people here don’t know about the shooting, so I don’t tell them,” she told The Gazette.

Dmitri Belser, who served on the Commission on Disability with her, had heard the car accident story. He didn’t know of the campus shooting until a Gazette reporter told him Wednesday. “How she became disabled probably wasn’t very important to her,” Belser said. “What was important to her was how she lived her life.” Rodolfo-Sioson apparently carried that philosophy with her as her health declined. Last month, she told KGO-TV in San Francisco: “To me this event (the shooting) is like ancient history. There’s so much that’s happened since then.”

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This article was originally published in The Gazette Oct. 28, 2001.:
Miya Rodolfo-Sioson sometimes tells people she was in a car accident. It's not that it's too painful to recall how a bullet fired into her mouth on Nov. 1, 1991, left her paralyzed from the neck down. It's just that she's too busy to tell yet another person the story of Gang Lu, a University of Iowa doctoral graduate in physics, who shot her and five others.

“Most people here don’t know about the shooting, so I don’t tell them,” Rodolfo-Sioson, 33, says from a large room on the third floor of a hospital clinic near her Berkeley home.

She is lying on a padded table, waiting for Paul Trudeau, a seating and mobility clinician from Stanford University, to return with new armrests for her wheelchair. Trudeau already has positioned a newly padded seat on the wheelchair Rodolfo-Sioson uses. Once the armrests are in place, he wants her to test the fit. Rodolfo-Sioson's attendant, Kelly Kolberg, lifts the tiny woman into the chair and positions her legs and arms in the right direction. While Rodolfo-Sioson can't feel any awkward angles, she will know it later when her neck gets sore.

A decade has passed since Gang Lu's massacre on the UI campus changed the lives of many in the UI community, including Rodolfo-Sioson, who was an undergraduate student at the time. Since the attack, Rodolfo-Sioson not only has learned to function with her disability, but has dealt with the after-effects, such as working with insurance companies to pay for her expensive, full-time care and special equipment.

The bright young woman does not often dwell on the events of Nov. 1, 1991. But she shared some of her time with The Gazette as a way to commemorate the day that altered her life forever.

The little things
This warm September day is pretty normal for Rodolfo-Sioson. Kolberg, 29, a student at John F. Kennedy University in nearby Orinda, arrives at 8 a.m. to start Rodolfo-Sioson's range-of-motion exercises, the only physical therapy Rodolfo-Sioson has maintained since being paralyzed. Kolberg dresses Rodolfo-Sioson, carefully threading her limbs through the clothing. She layers a tank top, fleece pullover and scarf on Rodolfo-Sioson's top half and shorts and blanket on her lower half. Dressing warmly is one way Rodolfo-Sioson guards against chills that she often feels, despite her paralysis.

Rodolfo-Sioson takes other precautions to avoid injury to the parts of her body she can't feel. She wears gloves to protect her hands from sunburn and has one of her attendants turn her in the middle of the night so she doesn't get pressure sores. Rodolfo-Sioson directs Kolberg with verbal commands. “Find my black headband. The lacy one,” she says. Kolberg digs the band out of a drawer. She combs Rodolfo-Sioson’s long, shiny black hair into a low ponytail before smoothing back loose hairs with the headband.

Rodolfo-Sioson scans her face in a mirror placed on a desk attached to her wheelchair. She asks Kolberg to cover a scar on her upper chest. That is where doctors at University Hospitals in Iowa City performed a tracheotomy to put Rodolfo-Sioson on a respirator after her breathing was disrupted by the bullet that penetrated her lower lip and floor of her mouth before lodging in her vertebrae. “I was lucky my injury was low enough that I didn’t have to stay on the respirator,” she says.

The realization hits: paralyzed for life. In the months following the shooting, surgeons repaired Rodolfo-Sioson's lip, implanted false teeth and removed the bullet from her neck. But she knew early on that paralysis would be permanent. “I don't remember if it hit me all at once. I was a little depressed the first year,” she says.

This is the first time since being hired in July that Kolberg has heard Rodolfo-Sioson talk about the shootings. Kolberg learned of the events from Rodolfo-Sioson’s mother, Sonya. “Miya doesn’t talk about her feelings. She’s very cut-and-dried,” Kolberg says.

Rodolfo-Sioson’s optimism through her recuperation after the shooting has been noted by doctors, UI administrators and friends. “Some of that is a little bit of a show,” she says. After all, there were cameras pointed at Rodolfo-Sioson for years after the tragedy and Rodolfo-Sioson isn't the type who likes pity. Rodolfo-Sioson says, with a hint of amusement, she knows a major anniversary of the Gang Lu shooting is coming because she gets calls from reporters. This year, she plans to do something fun on Nov. 1, like go to an All Saints Day party in the Mission District of San Francisco.

A busy lifestyle: When Rodolfo-Sioson returns from the clinic, she talks on the phone with a man named Don about the upcoming meeting of Berkeley’s Commission on Disabilities, of which she is the chairwoman. They discuss the best way to convince the Berkeley City Council not to fund community events that aren’t fully accessible to people with disabilities. The latest offender is the Berkeley Free Folk Festival. “I’m just not comfortable making the decision myself,” she tells Don, over the speaker phone. “You shouldn’t have to,” Don says. “I’m going to send your suggestion to a few other people,” Rodolfo-Sioson says before using her mouthstick to hang up the phone. The stick has a rubberized mouthpiece attached to a straight probe. The probe allows her to use head motions to punch the keys on her phone and computer, which she boots up to forward an e-mail from Don to three other commission members.

She surfs the Internet to find out Berkeley’s population. After sorting through nearly 100 hits, she finds the 2000 Census data that says 102,724 people live in Berkeley. About 17,000 of those are disabled, she says. The commission she leads works to ensure that curbs are cut for wheelchair use and that sidewalks are free from tables or signs.

One of the commission’s most rewarding projects, Rodolfo-Sioson says, is advising a non-profit developer on how to create apartments for people with disabilities. This developer is building larger apartments so people who have disabilities have more dwelling options. “They run into a lot of opposition from people who don’t want more traffic and density,” she says of the non-profits. “Maybe it’s just a thing in the big city.”

Life at home: For a couple of hours in the afternoon, Rodolfo-Sioson functions fine without an attendant while Kolberg goes to the grocery store. Suddenly she yells for her brother, Renato, who is a part-time attendant and housemate, to heat up some water and find her something to eat in the refrigerator. Rodolfo-Sioson has five attendants, including Renato, and their mother, Sonya. Miya, Renato and Sonya Rodolfo-Sioson live together in a ranch-style house that has been equipped with a ramp on the front and a wheelchair lift to a back deck.

Rodolfo-Sioson's corner of the house is a sunny room with wood floors. She recently had a carpenter knock out part of her south wall to create a three-panel window and a place for her computer. She also has a large bathroom with a whirlpool tub, about which her friends tease her because she's not yet used it.

Iowa City and its chilly winters lost their appeal for Rodolfo-Sioson in 1996. That's when she and Renato moved to Berkeley, the famously liberal college town, where their mother was already living. “It’s so expensive to live here, but there really are progressive politicians,” Rodolfo-Sioson says. “There’s a lot of diversity, which is nice. It was a little alienating growing up in such a white environment.”

Rodolfo-Sioson’s family moved from the Philippines to Ames in 1969, when her father got a job teaching mathematics at Iowa State University. Her father died shortly after they came to Iowa.

Grinnell College was Rodolfo-Sioson’s first choice for college, but she decided on UI because it was more affordable, she says. While at UI, Rodolfo-Sioson majored in global studies and got hooked on efforts to bring peace to Central America. She visited Guatemala in 1988, Nicaragua in 1989 and El Salvador in 1991, just months before the shooting.

Rodolfo-Sioson has vague memories of that blustery day in November 1991. She remembers Gang Lu coming into the office of T. Anne Cleary, the associate vice president for academic affairs, in Jessup Hall. “He seemed a little bit nervous. Who knows what he had going on in his head,” she says. After shooting Cleary, Lu pumped a bullet into Rodolfo-Sioson. She was the only person shot that day who did not know Lu and who had nothing to do with his frustrations with the university. She was also the only person who lived.

10 years after: Rodolfo-Sioson’s upbeat attitude through her recuperation inspired the campus. For a decade, she hasn’t dwelled on her injury and, instead, uses her position to promote causes she supports. If Rodolfo-Sioson is bitter, she hides it well. She says she has common human feelings of wanting to do more with her life, wanting to reach new goals, but those feelings don’t seem to come from anger about the shooting. “I get frustrated with myself because I feel like I should have a career right now,” she says. Rodolfo-Sioson thinks about being a full-time adviser for non-profit builders. She also considers counseling. Both would require additional schooling.

“There’s a little bit of a limit to what I can do. I have to have an attendant there,” she says. She also worries she may not have the interest to get through graduate school or the stamina to keep up with a regular job. But there are things in life Rodolfo-Sioson is sure about. She knows she wants to put a small greenhouse in a her back yard. She knows she needs to talk slower at commission meetings so everyone can hear. She knows she wants to visit her two other brothers in Austin, Texas.

As the 10-year-anniversary of the Gang Lu shootings comes and goes, Rodolfo-Sioson knows that life will continue and that she’s a part of it.

Ricki Landers, 1957-2008

Photo of Ricki Landers Ricki Landers of Salt Lake City Utah was born in Biloxi, Miss., Jan. 24, 1957, died November 14th 2008 of liver failure after spending her entire adult life in a wheelchair due to multiple sclerosis.

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Activist: 'I would rather go to jail than a nursing home.' Ricki Landers wasn't afraid to get arrested in her campaigns for disability rights.
By Paul Rolly, Salt Lake Tribune

Ricki Landers wouldn't hear of it when an organizer of the “Free Our People March” from Maryland into Washington, D.C., asked only those with powered wheelchairs to continue the last 5 miles. “John said he would push for me,” she said, in case she got tired pushing her manual chair. It was one of hundreds of protests the tireless activist for disability rights either joined or led, often times resulting in her arrest.

“I would rather go to jail than a nursing home,” she proclaimed during a protest at the National Governor's Association in Seattle, Wash., over policies that forced Medicaid recipients into institutions rather than getting care at home.

Landers, in her own words, “graduated” Sunday. She died of liver failure after spending her entire adult life in a wheelchair due to multiple sclerosis. “She was on the forefront of arrests,” said Barbara Toomer, a fellow activist through Utah’s Disabled Rights Community Action Center (DRAC). “It was a badge of honor.”

Landers would show up in Chicago to protest the lack of accommodations for wheelchairs at a major sports arena, or in Columbus, Ohio, to protest the policy against home health care. “We would shut down entire buildings,” said Toomer, “by placing our wheelchairs in the entrances of elevators so the doors wouldn’t close. We wanted the people to know what it was like to be confined.”

Photo of Ricki Landers A champion for child victims of domestic violence, Landers would collect toys and items for youngsters in shelters, then organize parties when the gifts were delivered, said Janalee Tobias, who met Landers through Women Against Gun Control (WAGC). “She would hold her homemade sign from her wheelchair at gun-rights rallies that said, ‘I can’t kick a rapist where it counts.’ She also embroidered in pink a sign that she attached to her wheelchair that said, ‘Hell on Wheels.’”

“I’ve never met a more generous person in my life,” said Toomer. “If she had a sweater and someone with her was cold, she would give that person her sweater.”

Landers was born in Biloxi, Miss., Jan. 24, 1957. She moved to Utah in the 1970s, where she has been an activist for various causes ever since. She is survived by a son, Chris Andrews, and two sisters, Susie Robinson and Sandra McMillan.

Carrie Gagliardi, 1955-2008

Photo of Carrie Gagliardi Carolyn (Carrie) Gagliardi died on Friday, Oct, 31, 2008 with partner Julie and dear friend Esme at her side. Carrie was born Nov. 14, 1955 in Brooklyn, N.Y. She came to San Francisco on her own when she was 16 to be a part of the experimental free school Symbas and to live in a communal space known as Project One.

Carrie was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at 22 and began using a wheelchair shortly thereafter. Carrie dedicated her life as a community organizer leading the struggles for better life for women, lesbians and disabled people.

In the 1980s she was a member of ADAPT (American Disabled for Accessible Paratransit). She was arrested many times for civil disobedience including chaining herself to public busses that lacked working wheelchair lifts. Carrie served on the Alameda Contra Costa Transit District Accessibility Advisory Board which advised the bus service on how to better meet the needs of people of all abilities. She was a peer counselor to newly disabled people. She served on many City of Berkeley commissions including the Commission on Disability, Human Welfare Community Action Commission, Health Commission, and homeless task force. Her leadership and community work was tireless.

Carrie was a graduate of the apprenticeship program at KPFA radio in Berkeley and ran the sound board on Tuesday mornings in the early 1990s.

In the mid-1990s Carrie went on three humanitarian aid trips to Cuba. And was instrumental in taking a retired AC transit wheelchair lift bus to Cuba which became their first such vehicle.

Carrie traveled the world in her wheelchair, spending time in Central America, Europe, Mexico, as well as crossing the United States many times. Carrie came to Fort Bragg in 2002 to live with her partner Julie as they worked to develop self sufficiency and harmony with animals and plants on their acre of land.

Carrie enjoyed many years of attending the Senior Center's Adult Day Health Program. Her occasional health challenges made her well known by the paramedics, nurses, aides, and doctors at Mendocino Coast District Hospital where she was always treated with care, dignity, and respect.

Carrie is survived by her partner of 18 years, Julie Apostolu of Fort Bragg; dear friend Esme Moreira of New Zealand and Fort Bragg; her parents Martin and Louise Gagliardi of Greenwood Lake, N.Y.; brother Joe Gagliardi and his family of Georgia; brother Mark Gagliardi and his family of New York; her aunt Marie Rust of Venice, Fla.; and many other cousins, aunts, uncles and friends near and far.

Carrie's vision was about keeping disabled people in life, community and living at home, that despite whatever level of disability, every single person is a giving and viable part of community, family and friends. Please honor Carrie's life daily by expanding your own vision of the world.

Memorial contributions are suggested to:
Mendocino Coast Hospital
Critical Care Nurses
700 River Drive
Fort Bragg, CA 95437
The Mendocino Coast Humane Society
19692 Summers Lane
Fort Bragg, CA 95437

Please visit Carrie's memorial page on Legacy.com. Carrie, it has been a joy and an honor to love you and care for you. You live forever in my heart.

Elizabeth Bacon, 1947-2008

Photo of Elizabeth Bacon Elizabeth (Betty) Bacon, one of the most influential and dynamic advocates for the rights of people with disabilities in San Diego and California for more than 30 years, passed away unexpectedly due to illness Sunday, February 24, 2008, in San Diego. She was 61.

Before her retirement in 2004, Betty worked for 29 years at San Diego State University, serving as Director of Disabled Student Services (DSS) for 25 years and for four years in the Office of Diversity and Equity, demonstrating leadership in the formulation of policies that affect SDSU employees and visitors to the campus.

Betty became involved with disability issues after she sustained a spinal cord injury in 1968 as the result of a sporting accident. She used a wheelchair for the rest of her life. She subsequently completed a B.A. and Masters Degree in counseling at San Jose State University. She became interested in the development of the support services program for disabled students at San Jose State University. That involvement marked the beginning of a professional career for this petite, passionate, effective advocate for the rights of people with disabilities.

Soon after in 1975, Betty moved to San Diego to direct the DSS program at San Diego State University. She took over a fledgling program serving about 100 students with disabilities. The office was in the old Campus Laboratory School, in space that had formerly housed the kitchen for the school cafeteria. Under her direction, the program grew from a staff of two to 15 full-time employees and numerous part-time staff which now serves over 1,100 students annually. Betty's on-campus responsibilities also included consulting with staff in Facilities Planning and Physical Plant on architectural accessibility to ensure compliance with state and federal codes and regulations. When the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, Betty coordinated the required campus self-evaluation. The SDSU program, which she directed, became a model for many others and she was often called upon as a mentor and guide to other Directors of programs for students with disabilities in higher education. In her campus work, she was a tireless advocate for an accessible campus and for equal access for students with disabilities to all university programs.

In addition to developing the DSS program at SDSU, Betty was involved at the system-wide and state level. She served as the chair of the California State University DSS Directors, as a member of the CSU Chancellors Office Advisory Committee on Services for Students with Disabilities, and on a similar committee on Services for Faculty and Staff with Disabilities. Some of her additional accomplishments include: Serving on a variety of local boards and advisory committees to the City and County addressing such issues as architectural accessibility, access to public transportation and employment; Serving as an elected delegate to the 1977 National White House Conference on Handicapped Individuals; Founding Board Member of Community Service Center for the Disabled, now Access to Independence, in San Diego, one of the largest independent living centers in the country. Betty was appointed by Governor Wilson to the California Department of Rehabilitation Advisory Committee, and served as an advisor to the Office of the State Architect on code revisions. She also served as an executive committee member of the California Association for Postsecondary Education and Disability. In addition, she served on the Citizens Review Committee on ADA for the City of San Diego, as a member of the Accessibility Advisory Committee to the Port of San Diego, as a program evaluator at San Diego City College and several other community colleges. Betty went toe-to-toe with the oil industry to make gas pumps accessible, the housing industry over universal design, MTS on making the trolleys accessible, and the Mayor's Office on creating and sustaining a disability services position at City Hall.

Betty was always positive and respectful as well as tireless, knowledgeable, and tenacious in her dedication to an accessible community that is welcoming to everyone. In her own words, “I believe that we must work toward a world and a community that includes us all and values our differences.”

Predeceased by her parents, Dr. Alfons R. and Dorothy Bacon, she is survived by her twin sister Ellen (and Scott) Guthrie of Tallahassee, Florida, brother Chuck (and Caroline) Bacon of Falmouth, Massachusetts, sister Nancy (and David) Rothel of Dahlonega, Georgia, brother Frank (and AnnLiv) Bacon of Edina, Minnesota, brother Jim (and Jane) Chandler of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and niece Laura Wiley of Raleigh, North Carolina as well as numerous close friends and colleagues in San Diego, California, and nationwide who will all miss her wisdom, positive spirit, dedication, friendship and love.

Betty loved nature, and felt strongly that the Earth must be cared for and protected so that all persons, including people with disabilities, might enjoy and thrive on our planet. As a result, she expressed a desire that in lieu of flowers any donations in her name be sent to the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, or the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

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“Elizabeth Bacon, advocate for rights of the disabled”

She loved to dance, travel and hike, and Elizabeth “Betty” Bacon didn't let a wheelchair stop her from doing anything, especially advocating for the rights of others with disabilities.

Whether it was getting wheelchair ramps on college campuses and other public buildings or pushing for more lifts on city buses and trolleys, Ms. Bacon was often on the front lines of change. “She was dogged but never rude or harsh,” said Catherine Campisi, former director of the state Department of Rehabilitation.

Ms. Bacon was the director of Disabled Student Services at San Diego State University for 25 years. She also worked at SDSU's Office of Diversity and Equity for four years.

Ms. Bacon died Feb. 24 at a San Diego hospital. Her body was donated to science, per her wishes. The cause of death was sepsis, an infection of the bloodstream, said her sister, Ellen Guthrie. She was 60.

Friends and colleagues said Ms. Bacon was a coalition builder who won people over with her charm and persistence. She played a significant role in ensuring that city and county agencies complied with the Americans with Disabilities Act. She was most recently involved in the “What's Next” program that pairs disabled teens and young adults with older professionals with similar disabilities who could mentor them.

“She was very much of a mentor to many people over the years,” said Helen Elias, a longtime friend. Elias, who is director of Disability Student Services at Southwestern College, said Ms. Bacon was an effective advocate because of her diplomatic and articulate manner. “She had strong feelings but there was never a sense of anger or sense of entitlement,” Elias said.

Ms. Bacon was one of four named plaintiffs in a 1995 class-action lawsuit claiming San Diego County was violating the ADA. Cyndi Jones, director of the Center for an Accessible Society, recalled Ms. Bacon calling a cadre of friends to visit county parks over the weekend. She wanted to rebut a lawyer's contention about 100 percent compliance before a scheduled Monday meeting. “We went to Carlsbad, Julian, Escondido . . . we visited every park in the county. She made advocacy fun,” Jones said. “We did an access survey and found that only 53 percent of the parks were in compliance. Many had no accessible parking or bathrooms.”

Elias said that Ms. Bacon loved nature and enjoyed camping, hiking and sailing. She was gregarious and enjoyed having parties at her Allied Gardens home. “She had a lot of joy and loved helping others,” Elias said.

When Catherine Campisi moved to San Diego in the mid-1970s, there were no formal resource centers for people with disabilities. “I was told, 'Go meet Betty Bacon and she'll help you.' Later we became colleagues and good friends,” Campisi said.

Ms. Bacon's involvement with disability issues started after a sporting accident in 1968. She parachuted into a tree and the fall from the tree left her with a spinal cord injury. She used a wheelchair the rest of her life. “Betty always said she was happy with the person that she was and she wouldn't be that person without her disability,” said her twin sister, Ellen Guthrie.

Ms. Bacon was born Dec. 31, 1947, in Chicago to Alfons and Dorothy Bacon. The family moved to Sarasota, Fla., when she was 5 years old. Guthrie said their father, a physician, was not prepared for the South after practicing medicine in Chicago. “He was the first doctor (in Sarasota) to integrate his waiting room even though people told him he might lose patients,” Guthrie said. “That's probably where Betty got her feisty spirit. She accepted everybody.”

Guthrie recalled bringing home a college roommate who happened to be blind. “She said she always wanted to learn to water ski and Betty made sure she had that experience,” she said.

Ms. Bacon earned bachelor's and master's degrees in counseling from San Jose State University. She moved to San Diego in 1975 to take over San Diego State's fledgling Disabled Student Services program, which grew from a staff of two serving about 100 students to 15 full-time employees and several part-timers serving more than 1,100 students a year.

Ray Uzeta worked with Ms. Bacon to found the Community Service Center for the Disabled, now known as Access to Independence. “You look at ramps, curb cuts, lifts on buses and trolleys . . . all the things that we now take for granted are changes that happened because of people like Betty,” Uzeta said.

Ms. Bacon was appointed by then-Gov. Pete Wilson to the California Department of Rehabilitation Advisory Committee and served on the Citizens Review Committee on ADA and Disability Issues for the city of San Diego. She also lobbied the mayor's office to create and maintain a disability services position at City Hall.

Besides her twin sister, Ellen, of Tallahassee, Fla., Ms. Bacon is survived by her brothers, Chuck of Falmouth, Mass.; Frank of Edina, Minn.; Jim Chandler of Santa Fe, N.M.; and a sister, Nancy Rothel of Dahlonega, Ga.