Treasured friends

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It was an absolute shock to read of the sudden death of Marsha Hinton (“Driven to Do Good After Son’s Killing,” Feb. 19 news obituary). I did miss her at the February Jail Oversight Board meeting, where we usually sat next to each other in the audience and caught up on each other’s lives. I thought she might have a cold, and I promised myself I would call her, but, of course, I got too busy.

Even though we had met through her involvement with the Allegheny County Program for Female Offenders when I was with the American Civil Liberties Union, I certainly considered her a close friend, and I think she felt the same. Maybe because we had both lost a son in a horrible way. We did a lot of traveling (my driving) together to visit female inmates at Cambridge Springs. I would kid her about her “Coke habit” (cola) as she always carried several bottles with her and seemed to exist on them. She would kid me about my driving (too fast). And we usually talked about, well, life and how we got through it.

Even with the difference in our ages, I don’t think we gave it a thought. We were just women who had suffered a great loss and tried to make the world better. We will all miss what Marsha could have done in the future.

She wasn’t the only friend I lost this week who worked hard to right wrongs. I didn’t say goodbye to the Rev. Donald McIlvane either (“Catholic Priest and Outspoken Rights Activist,” Feb. 18 news obituary). I always knew Donald would be right there at every civil rights demonstration, every pay cut or illegal firing. While I was involved with the ACLU, I knew we could count on him, especially with inmates issues.

In 2005, I didn’t say goodbye to Msgr. Charles Owen Rice either — a great fighter for unions. He sat for a short time on the ACLU board, which led to some interesting discussions.

I don’t know if I’m urging people to “say goodbye” or to say “hello” — I think it’s just to treasure each other as long as we can.

Squirrel Hill

The writer is former director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Western Pennsylvania, and current convener of the Pennsylvania Prison Society.


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