Remembrances

Maria's life was celebrated, and her passing marked, by her obituary in the Washington Post, Joe Conason's Salon.com column about Maria, Michael Tomasky's eulogy in the American Prospect, and Cenk Uygur's tribute on the Huffington Post. Additional rememberances as submitted are below.

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I have also published a tribute to Maria, in my blog Today's Workplace (linked to in the Conason column). Here's the link: http://www.workplacefairness.org/pblog.php (the post was on January 4). She made such an impression in the short time that I knew her, and she will be missed.
[Submitted by pbrantner]

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Maria was someone I emailed with all the time and she was my favorite person in politics that I've never met face to face. She was always above and beyond the call of duty. I felt like she was a mentor to me because I could always ask her questions and know I was getting a real, honest answer -and an answer that was backed with years of experience and knowledge and consideration. she was always willing to answer whatever questions I had no matter how silly they may have seemed to someone else in her standing. She was extremely generous with her time and her wisdom and I never felt like I was a hassle and she never asked for anything in return. She cared deeply about the progressive cause and knew what it was like being a young woman in the political world and she helped me tremendously.

I remember when the think tank I work for started the DMI Scholars program (a program to help young activists from under-represented groups get the mentoring, skills and connections they needed to become public policy leaders) she emailed me to express her enthusiasm for the program and suggested I send the application information to organizations that work with disabled youth. It hadn't occured to me to reach out to that community till she suggested it. And it was a great idea. And I think it says a lot about how amazing she was.

I miss her a lot. I wish I could be in DC for the memorial.

Sincerely, Elana
[Submitted by Elana]

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I only knew Maria as a lovely, confident and reassuring voice over the telephone. I have worked for twenty years as a broadcaster in Elko, Nevada and Maria handled our Nv. Senator Reid's radio releases. All this time, we shared our frustrations over politics, chatted about weather and family, and recently celebrated Senator Reid's rise on the hill. I absolutely knew she was an incredible person just by the care and time she gave our conversations. I had no idea how right on I was about that until reading of her passing. My heart and thoughts are with Maria's family and friends. I will always remember her kindness and dedication - although we never met - her voice conveyed a warmth and concern reserved for friends, and I considered her so.

Lori Gilbert
KELK/KLKO Radio
[Submitted by Lori Gilbert]

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I, too, knew Maria only over e-mail--as a distance education course designer at Penn State, I assisted her in writing/revising one of the American history courses we offer, "American Civilization Since 1877"--a course she also taught for some years for us. At some point along the way, we discovered we were on the same page politically, and enjoyed a number of e-mail exchanges about the alarming state of affairs in the U.S. Although I knew, from the bio she provided for us, that Maria was a political strategist, I had NO idea how influential and important she was to the cause of improving life for all Americans--while sacrificing her own financial security, comfort, and health. I also knew nothing of the commitment she had made to her brother. There are darned few selfless people in this world, but I realize now that Maria was truly one of them.
[Submitted by Celia Millington-Wyckoff]

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I only knew Maria for the last year or so but I knew her well enough to be affected by her life and diminished by her death.

Maria was such a classy person in the very best sense of that word. She possessed a quiet but obvious dignity the elevated her short stature into something as tall as a NBA basketball player.

Much has been written about her commitment to progressive causes. Such commitment has a cost which she carried in a natural way. How could she not help on the project to promote a website about workers rights or expanding progressive radio or even supporting her first choice for President in 2008? Blowing off her commitment was not an option for Maria.

Maria also projected a genuine humanity. She wanted to hear about the mundane details of my life which have nothing to do with politics or causes. People mattered to her. She mattered a lot, and I'll miss her always.
[Submitted by Howard Park]

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Maria and I became email buddies over the last year. I finally met her at Take Back America in '06, where she was instrumental in getting me access. She was the only person in the progressive movement I have found who totally understood my continued goal of getting my show back on radio, as well as the importance of am/fm radio to Democrats.

I was in D.C. for the 110th swearing in, at the Capitol, when I heard the news. She simply cannot be replaced, especially for those of us in radio. I've received emails from radio people I don't know about her death. I hope she knows.

Maria was a progressive force who worked tirelessly for people in power, as well as the rest of us. She will be missed for a very long time. The day I get back on radio I will send a silent prayer to one person. Maria Leavey.

I wrote a piece on Maria, which I'd like to share.

Farewell, Maria. God's speed.
[Submitted by Taylor Marsh]

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Maria Leavey encouraged me to start my own business and from time to time helped each other with projects. She was an invaluable confidant and a fantastic cheerleader. I wish I had met her sooner. I cannot tell you how many times I've been wishing to talk to her about the goings on in Washington these past few days. I miss her very much. Rita
[Submitted by Rita Rich]

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I am stunned to learn of Maria's passing. I didn't know her well, but she was wonderfully energetic and powerfully instrumental in many of the efforts I've found myself involved with. As those who have worked with her quickly realized, she was always there and never interested in getting the credit she very much deserved. She will be greatly missed.
[Submitted by Mike Farrell]

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On this the night of Maria’s memorial service, I find myself in Chicago trying to get ready to teach, but in reality thinking about Maria and reading again all that has been written about her over the past few weeks. Many have written here and elsewhere about the Maria Leavey they knew as an adult, but Maria was someone with whom I graduated from high school and who's father, like mine, taught in the same department at the local college. I had, for the most part, lost touch with Maria over the years, hearing reports about her from time to time from mutual friends or at class reunions. Ironically however, I had just had the opportunity to speak with her by phone this fall while visiting Lock Haven, where her brother sill lives.

Lock Haven at the time we were in school, was a blue-collar town where physical strength and being well connected were highly prized (and probably still are). Maria had no local connections and generally had to take "special" gym because of her heart. Fellow students and her teachers knew she was smart, but her physical limitations always put her on the margins of most of the school’s most popular activities. I pulled out our yearbook tonight and read her entry, Spanish and Speech Club, Layout Editor of the Yearbook, a member of the National Honor Society and recipient of the NCTE Award. Having lived in New York and having traveled before arriving in rural Pennsylvania, Maria could have let the local attitudes crush her or turn her bitter and cynical, but it never happened.

Maria went a long way from the small, rural town from where she finished high school. From my reading, it seems even as an adult Maria still lived on the margins of the most popular activities, because she wasn’t powerful enough and not quite well enough connected to be a major force, but it seems Washington’s attitudes never crushed her or turned her bitter or cynical either.

How sad it is that a problem heart, known about from at least high school days and I believe well before that, should take anyone’s life in America due to the lack of basic medical care. A country that Maria believed in the promise of so strongly, that she spent much of her adult life trying to help that promise become a reality. We can’t afford to loose many Maria Leaveys and certainly not that way.

I wish I could be in Washington this night to be with the other people that Maria’s life and work touched so meaningfully. I will be there in spirit.

Rev. Dr. Christopher L. Clemmer, Chair
Department of Counseling and Human Services
National-Louis University
[Submitted by Christopher Clemmer]

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I was shocked and deeply saddened to get the news yesterday morning of Maria's passing. I would have given anything to be there tonight to remember Maria with her other friends, and to grieve the loss of a wonderful friend who treated everyone, ordinary or powerful, with the same respect and generosity and grace. Unfortunately, I couldn't get an affordable flight from Maine on such short notice. So I was with you all in spirit, raising a toast to a truly extraordinary woman. I only wish she could return to know how deeply she was appreciated by so many. I don't think she had any idea how valued she was, and it makes me extremely sad to think that she might not have known. I wish I could tell her!

Since I moved to Maine from D.C. two years ago, Maria had been my lifeline to the kind of political conversation and introspection that is so hard to find in a tiny coastal town of 7,700 where the definition of "news" has a whole lot to do with fishing regulations and property taxes, and very little to do with D.C. doings. Although we did not talk nearly as often since my move, the conversations we did have were long and lively, and always inspired me to think about new ways to take action on the issues we both cared about. I always felt humbled by Maria's breadth of knowledge, passion for thoughtful discourse, and unquenchable belief that one or two committed people could, indeed, change the world. Some of my fondest memories are of talking to Maria about Howard Dean's candidacy--a cause about which she cared passionately, and for which she worked tirelessly. We talked a lot about Howard and his ideas, and were both inspired by his notion that ordinary grassroots folks were just as important as--maybe even more important than--the bigwigs in changing the course of American politics. As so many have noted, Maria's intelligence and passion combined in an extraordinary way, and that tiny person with the formidable mind had the power to connect people and ideas in incredible ways.

The other person Maria talked about constantly was her friend Joe Conason, who she loved and respected both as a friend and as a powerful writer for the progressive cause. Joe was so important in Maria's life. I still have e-mails from Maria with columns of Joe's attached, and many of our long political discussions on the phone were filled with references to Joe's columns and his ideas. Joe, I know how much you must miss Maria as friend and sounding-board. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing such a powerful and touching obituary. I read it, and wept. As you pointed out so eloquently, we all owe it to Maria's memory to work for universal health-care--and all the other causes about which Maria cared so deeply.

My condolences to Maria's many friends, and to her family. I so wish I could have been with you all this evening.

With deep sadness,
Kathy Westra
Rockland, Maine
[Submitted by Kathy Westra]

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Maria taught a class I took through Penn State's World Campus last Summer (2006). It was the absolute highlight of the semester, and she really went above and beyond trading messages with me about various issues that caught my interest throughout. I found myself pursuing so many details inspired by themes we discussed during the course, and she was always willing and able to entertain my extracurricular questions and observations, even after the course had long since ended.

She was friendly, engaging, knowledgeable, and objective. While I believe we shared similar philosophical and political ideals, she approached historical points without so much as a hint of political bias. She was, by all measures, a fantastic professor, and a huge part of the reason I decided to continue with PSU's online offerings. Moreover, she wrote a recommendation to the University after the class ended, and I'm currently attending on a scholarship that covered all of my expenses for this semester.

In a very short period of time, Maria was a keenly positive influence for me; academically, intellectually, even financially. When I learned of her death, it felt as if someone had hit me square in the stomach. I didn't know her, not really, and yet I know we're all worse off without her. More people like her need to be teaching. More people like her need to be politically active. Actually, we just need more people like her.
[Submitted by William Cullen Bryant]