About Kathy Conour
Kathy Conour (1943-2009) grew up as an only child in Springfield, Illinois. She attended high school in Chicago. Her first job took her to a sheltered workshop in Ottawa, Illinois. Despite the objections of her parents, she was determined to live independently. To avoid being placed in a nursing home, Kathy had to find a solution. So when she met Diana Braun at the same sheltered workshop in 1970, they teamed up. It was a good match and led to a friendship that lasted 42 years.
After trying foster care, Diana and Kathy found their first apartment and began their experiment in interdependent independent living. While living in Kankakee, she and Diana became frustrated with the high cost of taking cabs everywhere. With Kathy’s support, Diana took two years of studying and eventually learned to drive. With the mobility of a van, they traveled all around the country.
Kathy received her Bachelor’s degree in English from Olivet Nazarene College with a minor in business administration. Using a Pathfinder electronic communication device, Kathy wrote articles, responded to email and made speeches.
Born with Cerebral Palsy, Kathy had some mobility but lost it when she had to have an operation on a spinal cyst in 1990. Diana complimented Kathy’s skills and helped Kathy in and out of her power chair, attended to her personal needs like dressing and eating, and helped her answer email.
Kathy was a leader and an activist for disability rights. She served on the board of United Cerebral Palsy of Illinois and was active in the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Illinois Center for Independent Living, and People First.
In 2005 Kathy Conour and Diana Braun were awarded An Illinois Human Rights Award. They were the first people with disabilities to receive this acknowledgment.
Her humor, intelligence, gracious thoughtfulness, and candor will be missed.