Activist, author left her mark

Virginia Fraser: 1928-2011

Posted 11/26/11

Compassionate, committed, courageous, curious, calm, consistent, a communicator — the list of adjectives attributed to Virginia H. (Ginny) Fraser …

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Activist, author left her mark

Virginia Fraser: 1928-2011

Posted

Compassionate, committed, courageous, curious, calm, consistent, a communicator — the list of adjectives attributed to Virginia H. (Ginny) Fraser by friends and family might fill pages. And, it was a life leavened with a sense of humor.

Friends and family planned to gather Nov. 29 at First Plymouth Congregational Church in Englewood to remember her.

The activist for human rights, most especially rights of the elderly, died Nov. 18 following a massive stroke, according to her husband of 60 years, Charles H. Fraser, MD. She was 83.

In recent years, she lived with Parkinson’s disease, but always continued her intense interest in the world around her.

Born in Cleveland, she attended Hiram College, where she met her husband. After the Frasers moved to Colorado in 1957, she received a master’s degree from the University of Denver. She had longtime family connections to Colorado dating back to a grandfather who practiced medicine near Aspen in the 1940s. Charles practiced as a pediatrician at the Littleton Clinic.

In the early 1950s, she worked with the American Friends Service Committee to help integrate playgrounds in Washington, D.C., and even earlier, in the 1940s, she worked on a farm as a contribution to the war effort. A life of service followed, which involved her husband and four daughters in different ways.

“The world is clearly a far better place since she lived in the community,” said longtime friend Libby Bortz, who especially spoke of Fraser’s “incredible interest in older people.”

She worked with the League of Women Voters, on fair housing issues, civil rights, alternative education and environmental causes.

Daughters Cindy, Jan, Laura and Amy recall participating in marches as she explained the cause they were supporting. Her frequent letters to the editor inspired both positive and negative response.

She was a founding member of the Littleton Council on Human Relations, served on the Arapahoe Community College Board, the Littleton Planning Commission and received the Martin Luther King Jr. humanitarian award. Deep involvement in the Littleton community also included service on the Museum Board and many volunteer hours recording oral histories of other longtime residents.

For many years, she met monthly with a group of local women/activists, the Marias (named for the late Maria Kreye), to discuss state, local and personal issues, including their own aging.

She was honored with the Littleton Independent’s Most Valuable Citizen Award and received many national awards for her work in nursing home rights.

She wrote a book: “Understanding Senility: A Layperson’s Guide.”

“For me,” she wrote in a personal biographical note, “these issues, like those of protecting the rights of nursing home residents, are all part of the same fabric of social justice.”

A nomination to the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame said: “As an assistant professor at Loretto Heights College in 1977, she was inspired by a class project to begin a new career and life mission as a national champion of the rights of the elderly. As a longtime advocate for women’s rights…she quickly realized that women comprise the majority of people living in and working at elder care facilities and that these women have the fewest resources and the least power…. Her mother’s Alzheimer’s disease led her to involvement in issues of dementia in the elderly. She was one of the founding members of The Network for Special Elders. Which became the Alzheimer’s Association. As Colorado’s Long-term Care Ombudsman for 21 years, Fraser advocated for the elderly in nursing homes and other care facilities and established a program that other states have adopted as a model.”

She helped residents establish their own councils at many care facilities she visited and developed a special Bingo game that is used nationally in nursing homes.

Another facet of a rich, active life was the Frasers’ love of the outdoors, where they enjoyed hiking, horseback riding, and bicycling here and abroad, according to author/daughter Laura Fraser, who contributed much of this history.

Ginny Fraser is survived by her husband Charles, daughters Cindy (Brad) Taylor, Boulder; Janice Fraser (Roy Crawford), Evergreen; Amy Mease (David Mease), Littleton: Laura Fraser, San Francisco and four grandchildren, who called her “Gigi.”

The family suggests donations to the Parkinson Association of the Rockies, 1325 S. Colorado Blvd., Denver CO 80222.

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