I saw her picture in the paper today. The ARK Domestic Violence Shelter was giving the annual Coy Pullara Unsung Hero Award “to person or persons who have exhibited the same sort of hard work and compassion she embodied during her lifetime.” She’s been dead for a few years now, but she had a profound impact of my life, and from reading the write-up on her, an impact on many others lives. She was a social worker, counselor, professor, worked for accreditation and legislation for Social Work certification on both the state and national levels, and for this Award, she gave of her time, talent and money to form a domestic shelter, the ARK, for people who had experienced sexual abuse and domestic violence. And she was my friend. Most of my outlook on life she skillfully formed over a period of time when I really needed a friend. She taught me how to take the high road in decisions. Her compassion, humor and spunk were contagious.
She had the credentials and connections to be somewhat elite, but that isn’t the way she presented herself. She was an ordinary person with excellent character. That’s how I remember her.
She came from a larger family and grew up on a farm, somewhat sheltered by her mother. She got her education, got married to a very handsome man, and they had children. While the children were still young, he was killed in the military. Her story afterwards was one of courage and generosity.
As I grow older, I look at what my own legacy will be. It probably will never be to the heights hers reached. I wonder what I could have done if I had gotten my education in my early twenties and pursued the goal of helping others like she did. She had an ability to see a deficient, a need, in society and worked toward correcting it. I shared with her how I had realized the county I lived in did not have a place where at-risk women could go for safety. I had visited lawyers and judges, put a pencil and paper to the costs of starting shelter, and realized I couldn’t do it myself. However, I did pray and help prepare for her to come after me with the connections to make it happen, although it was years before I knew the story how the ARK started and her involvement.
Coy had a knack for seeing heroes in the raw and helping them come into their own. The Unsung Hero Award is aptly named for a woman who believed every person has value, and their good deeds be recognized. I really loved that woman.
At her funeral, her daughter held out her hand to me. Inside was a hand-crafted necklace Coy wore often. It still smelled of her perfume. On some days when I feel a little down, I wear that necklace, and feel her courage and her belief in me.