In the loss of Paula Wittekind, who passed away on November 8, the Parkinson’s community bids farewell to a lovely friend, a fine mind, and a courageous and indefatigable presence. To the end, she fought quietly but effectively against her own infirmities and against the indifference of institutions that she felt could always do more to wage serious war against Parkinson’s. But in all of these ventures – whether it was the legendary Parkinson’s Pipeline Group, which she co-founded, the Parkinson’s Action Network, or my own organization, the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation – Paula served as an effective research advocate, always finding a way to deflect attention from herself and her own needs, to others and the work they were doing to advance the interests of her community.
I last spoke to Paula by telephone a few weeks before she died, finding a rare downtime moment between the visits of pilgrims from various parts of her life who were visiting her home in Cocoa, FL – people like Perry Cohen, Peggy Willocks and other heroes of our community. In a just few minutes, she swept away the sadness and trepidation that I brought to the call and replaced them with feelings of love, respect, a laugh or two, and above all inspiration about how I could be working in her wake a little bit harder, a little bit better … and a lot more meaningfully. What a gift she made to me personally during this single conversation, and how much I value it.
Thank you, Paula, from all of us. May your wonderful and far-flung family treasure their memories of you. And may they know how many lives you touched, how deeply … and with what profound effect.