Obituary: Evelyn R. Stypula / Outspoken advocate for people with disabilities
Evelyn Stypula, center, with Gary Shaheen, left, and John J. Clark during the Three Rivers Center for Independent Living dinner at the Fairmont Pittsburgh hotel Downtown on Aug. 30, 2012.
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Evelyn Stypula's advocacy for people with disabilities began at age 13, when she volunteered for United Cerebral Palsy -- and it never really ended.
By the time of her death Wednesday, Ms. Stypula had a long list of achievements for her advocacy work: She served as vice chairman of the Governor's Cabinet and Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities under Gov. Ed Rendell, co-founded the ACCESS para-transit system in Allegheny County, and was president of Big Heart Bridges, a group she founded with her father to support those with disabilities.
She was also a member of the Advisory Committee of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Allegheny County 365 Committee, a group formed by former county Executive Dan Onorato to help people of different abilities in all aspects of daily living, including employment.
And, as a state advocate, Ms. Stypula reviewed campaigns in support of legislation for cross-disabled people and was a consultant for the Pennsylvania Government's Conference for Women.
Ms. Stypula herself had significant disabilities -- she was born with cerebral palsy and other physical deformities -- but she was hardly disabled, according to her cousin.
"She had no legs, she had two stumps for arms and, boy, could she get around," said a cousin, Lorraine Badarzynski of Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County. "She was a fireball. I couldn't keep up with her."
Ms. Stypula, 67, a Morningside resident for many years, died at her West View apartment of unknown causes.
Ms. Badarzynski said her cousin was inspired to advocacy work at an early age by her father. "Her father told her she could do whatever she wanted to do." As an adult, she traveled frequently to Harrisburg to meet with officials or in support of legislation to help the disabled, traveling alone by train each way.
"She wanted very much to be independent, and that's what she wanted for all people with disabilities."
Ms. Stypula is survived by a sister, Virginia A. Lenard. A Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. today in St. Raphael Church, 1118 Chislett St., Morningside.
Arrangements are being handled by the Walter J. Zalewski Funeral Home, Lawrenceville.
First Published February 25, 2013 12:00 am