We Would Like to Take a Moment to Pay Tribute to Those We Have Lost
Laurie Hajny lived the last 10 years with a rare pain condition that greatly limited her mobility. She still found the energy to go on nature walks. She was a California girl living in the Pacific Northwest and took every opportunity to go outside whenever the weather allowed. She was a vegan for over 20 years and loved animals. She spent her days listening to 60’s psych, watching Disney movies, and creating quilling art. She will forever be in our hearts.
1980 – 2018
Russ Connell was the father of IDA’s founder and president, Wayne Connell. Russ was born in Stuart, Nebraska, and lived on a homestead farm in Mariaville, Nebraska (North Central Nebraska) until the age of 9. The family then moved to Mesa, Arizona and lived there until 1950 and then relocated to La Crescenta, California. He attended Glendale High School, graduating in 1956. He then attended Letourneau College in Longview, Texas for one year and transferred to Fresno State College in California, receiving a B.S. in Industrial Engineering in 1961. He then did a stint in the Air Force and Air National Guard. His first job was with Armstrong Rubber Company near Hanford, California until 1966, and he then took a job with Gates Rubber Company in Denver, Colorado. He worked for Gates in various engineering capacities, retiring in 1998. While working at Gates, he received an MBA from the University of Colorado. After retirement, he designed and built his dream house near Buena Vista, Colorado and eventually settled back in west Denver due to health issues.
Along the way Russ married Karen Parent and they had three sons, Rusty, Wes and Wayne. They also adopted their daughter Susan from Korea when she was 8 years old. Karen and Russ parted ways in 1971. Russ later met Eloise Gonglach and they were married in 1973. Mark Gonglach, Eloise’s son, then joined the family.
Russ enjoyed many hobbies over the years, including collecting antique radios, woodworking, Amateur Radio and RVing. He was very involved in his church and loved the Lord.
Matt was born and raised in Colorado. He battled several forms of cancer since the age of 2, survived many operations which disfigured his facial features and left him heavily scarred both physically and emotionally, yet through it all he kept going and had a tender spirit and heart for others, loved music both performing vocally and instrumentally enjoyed playing and watching sports, was an accomplished writer and advocate for homeless, poverty and disability issues. In his youth he won many awards for his singing abilities as well as in sports, he earned his nickname Giant not only due to his physical stature, presence and strength, but because of his heart and giving and generous nature.
During his adult years Matt won praise from Presidents, Congress members and other public figures for his writings, including a published book of poetry, and advocacy for homeless poverty and disability issues. Matt’s writing can be read and his book ordered on his blog: A View from the Street. In 2013 he received a Mayoral proclamation making May 25th, Matt Barrett day in Seattle.
In place of flowers or a memorial service he asked that people donate to one of these three great causes: The Invisible Disabilities Association, Greater Seattle Cares, and The Watershed Center. His ashes will be planted in a tree at the Watershed Center by his dear friend Brooke. He is survived by and will be missed by a vast network of loving friends and family.
Karen was the mother of IDA’s founder and president, Wayne Connell. She was born in Detroit, Michigan and was the oldest daughter of four children, with one brother and two sisters. She grew up in Grand Junction, Colorado where she was passionate about caring for her horses and riding them faster than all the boys. She graduated from GJHS and began nursing school, but opted to marry and have a family. She was blessed with one girl and four boys: Susan, Rusty, Wes, Wayne and Shawn, as well as many grandchildren, great-grandchildren and foster children.
She retired as an Associate Underwriter at Colorado Casualty. She lived on the Front Range in Colorado and for a short while in southwest Missouri. Karen was an active member of various churches in the Denver Metro area where she loved to play the organ and piano, feed the hungry, and help the needy. Her precious faith in Jesus empowered her to face many trials in life and face death with great peace and security. Wherever she was, she passionately cared for the people and animals in her life, especially for those who were down and out. Karen loved to scrapbook and quilt for those she loved. She loved sending cards on special occasions and giving gifts to children in the family.
Throughout her life, she adored her many cats that gave her unconditional love. She loved recounting family stories. Her greatest achievement was being a mother and grandmother, loving many and being loved by so many more. Karen asked that people donate to IDA in her memory.
Susan was a warrior battling Lyme Disease. She was a fighter and amidst it all had a huge heart to reach out to others. Susan was a long-time and cherished member of the Invisible Disabilities Community. Those of us who knew her were blessed by her love and desire to “make a difference” in someone’s life. Susan did not part from this world without leaving lots of loving hand-prints on many hearts.We will remember her with the huge smile on her face at the Booth Brothers concert with Michael Booth, where she found such great joy (left). Our thoughts and prayers go out to her husband Larry and the rest of Susan’s family.
Jim was the brother of the IDA Founder’s wife, Sherri Connell. He had struggled with severe pain for many years, then took a bad turn after major neck surgery last summer and unexpectedly passed away in his sleep. Jim was a “Harley Man.” He loved motorcycles, fast cars, go carts and dune buggies. He also had a gorgeous voice and loved to sing karaoke. But most of all, Jim was a family man. One of his favorite sayings was, “Always remember, Family First!” His Mom always told him, “You have the best characteristics any man could ever have and I call that “Tough and Tender.”
Jim wasn’t just a “Big Guy” in stature, he was the one with the “Biggest & Best Hugs” and a really “Big Heart.”Person after person told stories of how Jim always put others first and was always there for them when they needed help .Jim was very supportive of the work that the Invisible Disabilities Association does to help others like his baby sister, Sherri. He traveled to attend the banquets with pride for what IDA was doing to bring awareness and support around the world. Also, for nearly 20 years, he was a part of the Western Slope Annual Toy Run by the Western Slope Harley Owners Group, taking toys in a cavalcade of motorcycles and hot-rods to children through the Salvation Army. He will live in many hearts forever!
Karen Dickson-Gallegos was born and raised on a farm in Wray, Colorado. She is the mother of four wonderful children; three boys and one girl. Karen had recently married Pat Gallegos in 2008. She enjoyed animals of all kinds, her pets, reading, crosswords and cooking. One of Karen’s greatest joys was singing karaoke with family and friends. Karen was a loving daughter, sister, wife, mother and friend to many. She is greatly missed.
Jason was diagnosed with both a pituitary brain tumor and kidney disease. He had successful brain surgery and received a kidney transplant donated by his mother. However, the kidney functioned at a minimum and he began battling a rare brain cancer. Jason credited his faith in God, support of his family and friends and good medical care with keeping him emotionally strong during his many trials. Jason unexpectedly passed away from a sudden, massive brain bleed.
Will (William Neal) Fletcher passed away October 22, from complications of the HlNl virus. He was Will was born on July 14, 1963, in Yuma, Colorado. From the age of 14 he worked for several different theater companies in Alaska, working his way up from concessions to District Manager retiring because of ill health. He moved back to Colorado to the family ranch at Deckers, Colorado.
Will had three sons, Rae and twins Jon and William. He was a loving father who said his life’s desire was to have a family and be a good dad. He is survived by his two younger sisters, a brother seven years older who shared his birthday and his parents. An older sister died at age 10. Will is sadly missed by everyone in his family and had he lived would now have a granddaughter (Rae’s daughter born in 2013) who he would have cherished.
Kim T. Mills
H. Paul Cottrell
Jenni Decker lived the last 4 years of her life, mostly bedridden due to a rare and complex pain disorder. Even so, Jenni’s love and passion for others was evident to those around her and her faith remained steady. Jenni was a daughter, sister, wife, mother and friend. She has been greatly missed by so many.
Jennifer “Jenni” Decker
Michael Stephenson had Cystic Fibrosis, a lung disease that usually takes a life at a very young age. Everyone loved Michael, his soft spoken voice and contagious smile. Although Michael was very ill, he often thought of others first. Michael thought for a long time he would never marry, but he found the love of his life, Gina in his 40′s and couldn’t have been happier. Michael passed away at the age of 50.