Hymes, Alison Bowman

Alison Bowman Hymes died on Saturday, August 5, 2017, in Charlottesville. She was 60. The daughter of the late Dell and Virginia Hymes, she was born on January 8, 1957, in Boston, Massachusetts, and grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Oakland, California; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she graduated from Friends Select High School in 1974. She received a BA in English from Bryn Mawr College in 1978 and an MA in Counseling Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1981. She worked in Philadelphia as a mental health counselor for several years. After moving to Charlottesville in the mid-1990s, she became a dedicated and accomplished advocate for the civil rights of people with mental health disabilities. Despite facing her own mental and physical health challenges, she would eventually serve on the Virginia Mental Health Planning Council as both Secretary and President and, in 2008, on the Task Force on Civil Commitment of the Virginia Commission on Mental Health Law Reform, on which her fellow members remembered her as a relentless and eloquent advocate for the citizens of Virginia potentially subject to involuntary commitment. She also served as Virginia Coordinator of PsychRights: Law Project for Psychiatric Rights. In 2011 she received an award for her years of mental health advocacy at the Mental Health Peers Conference of the Virginia Organization of Consumers Asserting Leadership (VOCAL). She was active in numerous progressive political causes and followed political news avidly until shortly before the end of her life. She was also a poet, essayist, and satirist. She was a lifelong animal lover and found great joy over the years in caring for her cats Cagney and Lacey and her dogs Phoebe, Gandhi, Squeaky, and Molly. Alison is survived by her longtime advocate and friend, Elizabeth Breeden; a sister, Vicky Unruh (husband David); two brothers, Robert Hymes (wife Debora Worth) and Kenneth Hymes (wife Leisl Patton Hymes); two nieces, Jennifer Unruh and Rachel Unruh (husband Doug Schenkelberg); three nephews, Saul Hymes (wife Ilana Harwayne-Gidansky), Zachary Hymes, and Tieghan Hymes; a grand-niece and two grand-nephews; and numerous allies in the mental health rights community who worked with her and still celebrate her achievements. A private memorial gathering will be held at a later time. Memorial donations may be made to On Our Own or to VOCAL, Inc., mental health service organizations in Charlottesville.

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