April 5, 1948 - February 29, 2016
Lynda Joyce Steele; a long time resident of San Mateo County died unexpectedly on February 29 after a brief illness due to complications from a serious respiratory infection. She is survived by relatives and friends in the U.K. and the U.S. and will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved her.
Lynda was born in Kent, England on April 5, 1948, the only child of Joyce (nee Westrop) and Bob Steele. Both her parents preceded her in death. She completed her education in England, with a Masters in Social Services Planning from Essex University.
Starting her career as a social worker, she soon witnessed the abuse and exploitation of people with disabilities who lived in dreadful conditions in British institutions. She was recruited to transition the residents out of one of those institutions and the 350 people she moved into the community thrived for the first time in their lives. This was a pivotal experience for Lynda and guided everything she did during the next 40+ years of her career.
Lynda moved to the Bay Area in 1973; and fell in love with this “happy place” as she called it. After several years of serving the people with disabilities on a volunteer basis, in 1978 she became Developmental Disabilities Coordinator for the County of San Mateo. In 1981, she joined Abilities United (then known as C.A.R.) located in Palo Alto, as Director of Program Services.
In 1983 she went back to the U.K. only to return here in 1989 and become Executive Director for the Hunger and Homeless Action Coalition of San Mateo County. She returned to Abilities United (then C.A.R) in 1990 as Associate Director and in 1993 was promoted to Executive Director following a nationwide search by the Board of Directors. Under her stewardship Abilities United received numerous awards including the 2009 Palo Alto Tall Tree Award for “Outstanding Nonprofit”, the 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2013 nationwide Alliance for Community Media award for the Abilities United Community Connections cable TV program. In 2010, Abilities United received the San Andreas Regional Center (SARC) Service Provider of the Year award. In 2014 Lynda was awarded the Woman of the Year for the California 24th Assembly District.
Following retirement in June 2014 Lynda continued her advocacy for people with developmental disabilities through volunteer work, most notably helping in the establishment of the “Big Wave” housing project on the San Mateo coast.
In January 2016 she became a U.S. citizen and was looking forward to voting in her first presidential election.
Lynda was a true humanitarian who believed in a barrier-free society and dedicated her career to developing high quality community services for people with developmental disabilities as an alternative to institutional care. She will always be remembered for her passion and compassion for all people, and her belief that all individuals make a vital contribution to the world.
Donations in Lynda’s memory can be made to AbilitiesUnited.org or the BigWaveProject.org.
A Memorial Service for Lynda will be at the Crowne Plaza Cabana Hotel, 4290 El Camino, Palo Alto, 1pm, April 30th. Details will be posted on the Abilities United website.