Myrna Miller Wellons, 40, a North Carolina women's rights and social welfare champion, died Monday from a catastrophic stroke.
At her death, she was president-elect of the Board for the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), North Carolina Chapter, vice-chair of the state's Diabetes Advisory Council, and a board member of the Mental Health Association of North Carolina.
Ms. Wellons in her career served as director of government relations for the NASW's state chapter. She was a familiar face at the General Assembly advocating for child welfare, women's rights, diabetes issues and support for North Carolina families.
She was employed in Corporate Affairs for Lilly USA at her death and was responsible for the company's government relations in North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas, notably on mental health and diabetes issues.
She was especially noted for her mentoring and training of social workers throughout the state. She was a visiting lecturer at North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work and Meredith College. It was not uncommon for her former students to call her for professional and personal advice, at all hours.
A voracious reader from childhood, she excelled in school and learned her public speaking skills in Caldwell County 4-H. She was a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill in journalism and psychology, the School of Law at UNC-Chapel Hill, and the School of Social Work at UNC-Chapel Hill's masters program.
Her friends and professional colleagues especially remember her energy and passion for her work. One former employee recalled her as the earliest person at the office and her "faster than most people can think" greetings about the day's events. Another confessed her own fear of public speaking as a NASW intern and Ms. Wellons' cure--getting all the public speaking assignments.
She was known by many of her friends as "Mama Myrna" for her interest in their lives, both at work and personal. "If she hadn't heard from you, she would call your cell phone, then your home phone and next your work phone until you called her back," said one. "She wanted everyone to succeed, even if it meant creating a spreadsheet for your family's budget," said another friend.
Ms. Wellons was a tireless lobbyist for her causes and worked with Democrats and Republicans on professional issues such as "title protection" for social workers and public funding for diabetics. She embodied Thomas Jefferson's vision of "citizen."
She was working the halls in the General Assembly when she realized her baby was on his way. A joyful person, she sang and talked to her son daily even before his birth.
Ms. Wellons is survived by her husband, Robert Shawn Wellons and her infant son, Christopher, both of Cary. She is also survived by her brother Troy Miller and his wife, Amy, and their two children of Lenoir, and her father Jack D. Miller of Knoxville, TN. She is remembered by almost everyone who met her.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, March 6, 2010 at 1:00 pm at White Memorial Presbyterian Church, 1704 Oberlin Rd. Raleigh, NC.
Memorial gifts may be made to the Christopher Wellons Fund c/o Capital Community Foundation, P.O. Box 18902, Raleigh, NC 27619 or Friends of the N.C. Diabetes Advisory Council c/o N.C. Public Health Foundation, P.O. Box 18763, Raleigh, NC 27619.
Funeral arrangements are by Bryan-Lee of Raleigh.