Who will fill these empty shoes?

By Barbara Goodmon

June 2005 has been a very sad month for our nation, state, and county.

Three very special North Carolinians who greatly impacted the lives of the underserved died.

Jim Bernstein was a well-known national and North Carolina advocate for rural health.

Deborah Greenblatt was a North Carolina advocate for disability law reform for low-income children and adults with disabilities.

And Laura Oberkircher was a Wake County advocate for healthy mothers, healthy babies.

Each did so much to make a difference, but all three should have had many more years to continue their work.

Cancer snuffed out each of their lives much too early.

Their families, friends, and communities will miss them immensely, as all who knew them loved them.

The underserved they would have served will unknowingly miss them. North Carolina has been left with an unexpected void in advocacy for the underserved.

Who will fill these empty shoes — size 13˝ times three?

Who is capable of filling these shoes?

And, most importantly, who is willing to fill these shoes?

I see Jim Bernstein, Deborah Greenblatt, and Laura Oberkircher as unsung heroes.

They were bright, energetic, compassionate and focused.

Each could have chosen a more lucrative career, but thankfully they didn’t.

They worked tirelessly to give every person an opportunity to be the most they could be.

Laura Oberkircher’s husband told The News and Observer: “She was always fixing the world.”

I believe this quote is a perfect description of the way all three lived their lives.

We say goodbye to three exceptional North Carolinians. They will be missed.

Again I ask, who will fill these empty shoes — size 13˝ times three?

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