Chapter 7
Loss and Continuity (1986–95)

On a Sunday in April 1995 a front-page headline keyed New York Times readers to a story inside: “Gray Panther Founder Dies,” an obituary of eighty-nine-year-old Maggie Kuhn, who “died yesterday at the home she shared in Philadelphia with a like-minded coterie. … She spent the last 25 years leading people young and old in the fight against age discrimination and other forms of what she saw as social injustice and stereotypical thinking.”1 Maggie died in her sleep at 8:30 a.m. on April 22, with her home attendant, Bertha Monroe, sixty-three, beside her. Later that day her personal assistant Sue Leary and former Network editor Christina Long fielded press inquiries and called Gray Panther Board chairperson Charlotte Flynn, who relayed the news to other members. The next week an “extra” issue of Network was mailed containing tributes to Maggie and details about memorial services at the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and the Presbyterian Church of the Pilgrims in the nation’s capital. In lieu of flowers it requested that donations to the Maggie Kuhn Endowment be forwarded to Gray Panther headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Five months later Maggie was inducted posthumously into the Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York. Other testaments followed, among them dedication of the Maggie Kuhn Gardens at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, Pennsylvania, where Maggie helped start a Gray Panther network in 1989. Her elderly incarcerated followers erected a plaque on the prison grounds reading, “These gardens are dedicated to the memory of the great lady, Ms. Maggie Kuhn, pioneer and organizer of the world wide Gray Panthers movement. Ms. Kuhn lived and stood for what was right and dignified, especially on behalf of senior citizens. According to Ms. Kuhn, even a scoundrel has the right to maintain dignity and self respect. R.I.P. Gracious Lady.”2

-179-

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