In Memoriam
Linda Gonzales
5.24.45 – 7.27.13


Additional Articles and Information at the links below:

Linda Gonzales article from ILRC - Albuquerque, New Mexico

Linda Gonzales Memorial Flyer

July 27, 2013 marks the end of an Era. It is the day the Disability Movement lost its “Queen of IL,” Linda Gonzales, the Mother of APRIL. We are heartbroken. Blessings to your family in this time of grief.

Words cannot express what she meant to so many of us. She will remain a symbol of strength and resolve... always hopeful and always loving. She cared deeply about the rights of all people with disabilities and dedicated her entire adult life to empowering us. Life will be dimmer now. The world is missing a very bright light that shone for equality, inclusion and accessibility.

The impact that Linda had on Rural Independent Living is evident in Federal Laws that have been enacted, in language we have come to rely on and in rules we have come to live by. Her impact threads together the Rural fabric that is the IL Movement. It can be felt every year, in every APRIL Conference. Her legacy lives on through the Linda Gonzales Award for Outstanding Rural Youth. We will march forward in your footsteps. We will never let the torch you lit burn out.  

You are soaring now, up high like an Eagle. And it suits you.  Our dear, dear friend... We love you. We will miss you always.

In lieu of flowers or cards: Linda’s husband, Jerry, has asked APRIL to coordinate the collection of monetary support. The costs are many and any contribution will be most helpful.  

Please send donations to:
P. O. Box 203
Plumerville, AR 72127

*Call the APRIL office at 501-753-3400 if you wish to use a credit card.


Linda Gonzales: Helping Rural CILs Drives Her

By Janine Bertram Kemp 

Independence Today Article

She’s a braniac with gorgeous blonde hair and deep red lipstick. In these, her middle-age years, she still can turn heads. She is well dressed and moves through the world in her power chair. Linda Gonzales is also softspoken -- more of a doer than a self-promoter.

Gonzales is a leader who likes to anticipate issues. She sees problems coming and offers answers. She has been looking at the potential funding crisis for centers for independent living (CILs) and is primed to find solutions. She writes a blog for the Independent Living Research Utilization New Community Opportunities Center in Houston, Texas, that focuses on CILs. If your CIL wants to shore up its funding base because of recent or impending budget cuts, she’s got the time and inclination to help you execute workable plans that focus on local resources and community foundations as well as more traditional state and federal opportunities.

In national disability rights history, Gonzales is to rural independent living what Ed Roberts was to urban independent living: its founder. As director of the Association of Programs for Independent Living (APRIL), she got the organization on a firm footing and was the driving force behind its reputation as an innovator.

Gonzales became involved in the disability rights movement as a consequence of graduate school. She graduated in 1981 with a master of arts in education, educational psychology, and guidance counseling from California State University at Northridge, Calif. She had been working on her thesis on the psychosocial needs of people with muscular dystrophy at the same time as her own MD was worsening.

“For many years, I had a diagnosis and a hidden disability,” she said. “The last twenty years, it moved to the lower part of my body, and I eventually ended up using a reclining power chair.” In order to conduct research for her thesis, she attended the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s summer camps. She could have attended as a camper or an assistant.

“I met some wonderful people at MDA camp, including a gal who worked at Westside CIL in Los Angeles. She talked about the philosophy of IL, and it was similar to my conclusions. It was 1980, and I felt like I was building independent living all on my own. She said there was a movement that exists. I got my degree and became a peer counselor at WCIL. June Kailes was my first boss.”

Gonzales moved to New Mexico in 1982 as the New Vistas CIL in Santa Fe was being formed and remained there until 1993. In 1987, she married her husband, Jerry. Gonzales began work as an outreach worker, driving her van across the nine easternmost counties in the state. Crisscrossing the rural areas in that section of New Mexico, she got a feel for the values and the cultural and religious issues that affected the people with disabilities who lived there.

She eventually became a counselor and then executive director at New Vistas CIL. In 1986, ILRU began looking at how rural CILs were doing and, with funds secured from a grant, brought together directors from 12 states for a three-day meeting in Houston.

“Twelve of us got together and fell in love with each other,” Gonzales said. “Each of us had been feeling like we were the only ones. We found out that so many of the things we experienced were similar: mileage reimbursement checks larger than our paychecks, huge catchment areas (the CILeligible population in that region), lower funding, isolation.”

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