As DCA’s executive director from 2005 to 2012, Leonila Vega was a visionary leader , guiding DCA through its foundation as a nonprofit organization and establishing its direction and its signature programs, including the Voices Institute that is now named for her. The following tributes are excerpted from messages shared between her friends and colleagues in the days immediately following her passing on November 19, 2012.
I’m sorry to say that early Monday morning Leonila died peacefully in her sleep from the effects of the cancer she called “the Monster.” I believe she decided to fight “the Monster” another way by going to a better place where there is no illness and disease, where she can watch over all of us and continually reach out to us through our memories of her and how she envisioned and communicated ways to make sure that the DCA remain the greatest advocate of direct care workers in the country.
I will miss Leonila tremendously, as I am certain you all will. For the twenty-five years I’ve known her, I always knew that she was one of a kind.
— Brad Nelson, Leonila’s partner and caregiver
Leonila believed in me before I believed in myself. I remember the first time I met her. I was in awe of her confidence and knowledge of the issues direct care workers face. I sat quietly in that meeting. I kept seeing her at meetings and I kept sitting quietly. Then I attended the first Voices Institute. I can remember having to write a speech, and I was scared to death. I was fortunate enough to be in the group who gave our speeches to Leonila. She planted a seed that day and continued to encourage me at every opportunity.
— DCA Board Chair and home care worker Tracy Dudzinski