In the early days of the Information Line, when call volume was low, it was Mary Ellen who kept everyone focused and energized and soon became the heart of the group. Her mantra we can do more was a huge factor in the growth and influence of the Information Line. Her gentle, positive, and comforting way often resulted in callers asking to speak with only her. She loved to keep track of everyones birthday, celebrate milestones in their lives and provide comfort during hard times. In spite of physical challenges, Mary Ellen left every caller with the knowledge that she truly cared.
One of my fondest memories of Mary Ellen was during Christmas. I would take all the calls that day to allow the other associates time with their families. During the course of the shift, Mary Ellen would log on just to keep me company simply because she couldnt stand the idea that I was working alone. I had the honor of traveling to California to visit Mary Ellen. We shared a meal and celebrated a friendship which to that point had only been through with the realization of just how hard her daily struggles were, while attaining the knowledge that limitations in her life didnt really exist because Mary Ellen had a mission and a goal.
In this life, if we are indeed fortunate, we will have special people to share our journey. For many, Mary Ellen was that person. She made us want to become something better than what we once thought we could be. Many of those reading this tribute might well not know her name, but generations will experience the benefits of her work.
The COPD Foundation extends our condolences to Mary Ellens sister Maggie Oliver and her many friends. What we can never do is say goodbye because in our hearts and work, Mary Ellen will always be there.