• Gray Panthers NYC Board

Some Words About Former Gray Panthers Board Member Rolly Woodyatt


This week, many of us are thinking of the things that we are thankful for. For some of us at Gray Panthers, one of the things we are thankful for is that we had the pleasure and joy of working with former Board member Rolly Woodyatt. While she passed away three years ago to this day, those of us who knew her still miss her dearly.


Rolly came to Gray Panthers upon learning about us while also leading another local coalition working on the rights and dignity of older persons. She decided that her goals were best accomplished through being a part of Gray Panthers NYC.


And was she ever instrumental to our work! She was particularly vital to our work on caregiver issues—something that was a major focus of our organization at the time. She was also a key part of other initiatives focusing on the rights of older persons.


She did things in the background too, things that might not always be seen by people who follow our work but are important to our functioning as an organization. She took minutes for many of our Steering Committee/Board meetings. She generously offered her office space for our meetings. She was an advocate for modernizing Gray Panthers into the 21st century in various ways, the fruits of which are coming to bear.


Her advocacy did not stop with the rights of older persons. She was an advocate for the developmental disability community. In fact, this work helped her realize that there are many similarities between the way services are provided for older persons and the way they are for people with developmental disabilities.


Speaking as someone who worked with her on several Gray Panthers NYC projects, I think that part of what made her successful was her ability to attend to detail while not losing sight of the bigger picture. It can be a challenge to balance both, but Rolly was able to do that, both in her work on the rights of older persons and on the rights of people with developmental disabilities.


There was also a lighter side to Rolly. She loved to travel, particularly to Italy. She had a wicked sense of humor—one instance which comes to my mind was when she talked about “throwing shade,” As a result, there was a sentence in Gray Panthers NYC Board minutes saying that “Rolly threw some shade.” She was extremely well-read, to the point that her apartment felt like a mini library!


I believe that the world would be better, in more ways than one, if we had more people like Rolly. But thankfully, Gray Panthers was blessed to have her, and she, as well as the world, are better off for it.