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Obituary: Holly Ladd

Published in The Boston Globe on June 25, 2014

Ladd, Holly Died at her Newton home of ALS on June 23, 2014 at the age of 59. She was a graduate of the University of Vermont and Suffolk Law School. She accomplished much in those too few years. Always ready to venture beyond her comfort zone, Holly Ladd might be hopping on a small airplane to fly to a tiny air strip in rural Kenya, or boarding a jet to fly to Oklahoma in the wake of a devastating tornado.

Holly took joy in helping others throughout her life. Holly’s training as an attorney and her interest in understanding how things worked and how to strategically influence policy made her a major force for good in Boston since the early 1980’s. While head of the Boston Fair Housing Commission, she was galvanized by the illness of her close friend, Fred Mandel, to help develop the Boston AIDS Consortium and lead the Board of Directors of Fenway Health at a pivotal time in its growth. She subsequently focused her talents on helping African health providers use new technology to be able to give their patients state-of-the-art care. Many lifetime friends and colleagues around the world will deeply miss her. Holly’s vision was global, while always doing her good works locally. Her work with the American Red Cross could be thrilling and exhausting. Late night calls to help families displaced in Boston tenement fires were frequent, and led to emergency assignments in tornado-ravaged Oklahoma and after the hurricane hit Puerto Rico. Holly’s immense coping skills were always in demand.

Blessed with the power of a Laura Davies and an unquenchable curiosity about the techniques and strategies of the game, Holly was an avid golfer. Holly could hit the ball a country mile, and was a pretty good putter, but primarily she was a golf thinker and competitive even when the odds weren’t in her favor. Before Holly’s ALS diagnosis in 2012, her creative gifts were invested in her photography: seascapes, informal portraits of her friends and family, bike photos across the 173 miles of the Pan Mass Challenge route and, finally, a stunning series of formal portraits of women and children served by the Crittenton House. She was an active member of the Newton Camera Club.

Following her diagnosis, Holly wrote a remarkable series of essays reflecting insights and imagery elicited by the experience of ALS. With stinging clarity and persistent humor, Holly let her readers join her in this experience. It was a gift painful to receive, but invaluable. (hollyladd.tumblr.com) Her blog will soon be published and Holly will continue to give support and insights to others with a terminal diagnosis.

Holly also seized the opportunity to advocate and organize in support of more adequate funding of ALS research. Substantially paralyzed but determined as ever, Holly met with members of Congress, participated in national advocacy efforts re FDA requirements for persons with terminal illnesses, and was a member of the Board of Directors of Compassionate Care ALS in Falmouth. She was featured in an Al Jazeera Tech Know TV show on Message Banking after she could no longer speak to convey the importance of technology to maintain engagement and community connection for people with ALS whose muscles stopped working.

The joy that Holly took in her family, her life partner Joan Mikula and their son, Michael Mikula, was the emotional ballast of her life. Joan’s extended family, especially her late brother George, his wife, Janice, their sons David, Timothy and Jonathan, and their wives and children, have been Holly’s family as well. Holly is survived by her parents, David and Audrey Ladd of North Andover; her brother David and sister-in-law MaryAnn of Hanover; her sister Victoria of Haverhill; and two nieces, Rebecca Deaton and Amelia Capone and their families.

Visiting hours will be held on Thursday, June 26, 2014 between 4:00 P.M. and 8:00 P.M. at the Eaton Mackay Funeral Home, 465 Centre Street, Newton MA. A memorial service to celebrate Holly’s life will be held on Friday, June 27, 2014 at 11:00 A.M. at the Wilson Chapel, Andover-Newton Theological School, 234 Herrick Rd.,Newton MA (www.ants.edu for directions).

Contributions in Holly’s memory may be made to Compassionate Care ALS, P.O. Box 1052, West Falmouth, MA 02574 or (ccals.org). For directions, or to share a memory of Holly please visit www.eatonandmackay.com Eaton & Mackay Funeral Home Newton Corner 617-244-2034

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