The Johnson County Democrats lost something more important than an election Tuesday.
We lost Lori Bears.
For many campaign cycles Lori was our public face. She spent every free minute at headquarters as our front desk person, greeting newcomers and directing people to the right staffer or volunteer. Odds are she was the first Johnson County Democrat I met, when I walked into the 1990 headquarters before I'd even signed my apartment lease.
That was just days after the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed. Lori was developmentally disabled. But no one in our party gave more relative to their abilities than Lori. She was our conscience on all things accessible, making sure every new office and every event was open to all regardless of physical capacity or income.
Lori loved our parades. Walking them was too difficult but she rode shotgun and always had a broad smile and wave. And she would wait patiently until the end of every central committee meeting to make an announcement or offer a resolution. Patience is an underrated virtue and Lori taught many people its value. Sometimes people were worn out and ready to leave. But whatever Lori had to say, it was always important and almost always right.
I also served with Lori on the Housing and Community Development Commission, where she sat as an equal with the likes of Amy Correia and Matt Hayek. She struggled with the numbers, but to be fair we all did. And Lori always understood the guts, the essential nature, of the issues, the nature of the proposals, and spoke her piece and made her decisions. One of the things she most strongly supported on the commission was Shelter House, and that's the cause to which memorials should go. Even in death, that's just like Lori: thinking of those whose challenges were even greater than her own.
Lori had been less active in the party lately. I'm kicking myself today for all the times I thought: "Lori hasn't been to a meeting in a while. I hope she's OK." Today I'd give anything to be able to give her one more ride home, to have one more chance to celebrate an event or even just re-cap a meeting.
Lori Bears was a Democrat because she knew Democrats were the ones looking out for people like her. And that's the best way to honor her memory.