Amy Van Meter was one of the strongest women we’ve ever known. A friend, wife, social activist, mediator, writer, and Independent Local Hero, Amy touched many of us in Santa Barbara. It was in the last month of her life that we both witnessed the interconnected web of love, friendship, and community she weaved as so many people came together to share stories and say goodbye. She died at home on October 21, 2010, at the age of 43, after a long, protracted battle with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Amy always looked to the good in the world, even in the midst of pain and conflict. She grew up in Iowa City and attended Earlham College and Notre Dame, where she studied peace and global studies. She moved to Santa Barbara in 1994 with her husband, Will McClintock, where he attended graduate school and she embarked on a new career path in the housing and residential services department at UCSB.
Her natural ability to deeply listen and create compassionate space for people to work through their conflicts, whether with themselves or with others, guided Amy’s positions in mediation and restorative-justice work. Her gracious yet authentic style had you either in stitches or seriously contemplating how you might work better with others in a graceful and loving manner. Amy helped create and shape these cutting-edge programs at UCSB.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society Web site describes MS as “a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another.”
For whatever reasons, which even her many medical professionals could not identify, Amy’s experience with MS was particularly severe and painful. In consultation with many doctors, she and her family tried numerous methods to reduce this chronic pain, unfortunately with little success.
And yet, we do not remember Amy in terms of her fight with MS, because that was not how we knew her. She loved to sing, laugh, and examine the questions of life. Anyone who knew her was touched by her smile, positive energy, and kindness. Amy focused on and reveled in her profession, her creative writing, her advocacy, and her conversations with friends and family. She was outspoken not only on creating better access for people with disabilities and finding a cure for MS; she also fought for positive social change and against discrimination and injustice as a co-chair for the Fund for Santa Barbara’s Grant-Making Committee. She participated and volunteered at Hearts Adaptive Riding. She loved going to the movies, attending parades, and listening to This American Life, and she knew every episode of The West Wing by heart.
One small, perhaps, but significant personal triumph and legacy is the renovation of the downtown library’s bathrooms, which are now accessible to everyone. Amy was a key player as a member of the city’s Access Advisory Committee to prioritize funding toward this project from the many capital projects citywide. As she told The Independent in her Local Hero interview, “physical and programmatic access are vital for every member of the community. It makes the difference between being able to participate and not.” Her advocacy also reached Congress through the National MS Society, where she was inducted into their Volunteer Hall of Fame.
Even with all her accomplishments in this short life, the things that really mattered to her and her friends and loved ones were her independence, her fortitude, her sense of humor, her compassion, and her immense love and grace for others. Amy lived her life; life did not pass by her.
Amy is survived by her loving and devoted friend and husband, Will McClintock; her mother and her stepfather, Lea and Beryl Halterman; her father and her stepmother, Michael Van Meter and Judy Hillman; brother, Clarke Van Meter; aunt, Sandra Jennings; nephew, Michael C. Van Meter; in-laws, Sally and James McClintock; brother-in-law, Matthew McClintock, his wife, Greta, and their son, Finn; her friends from Trinity Episcopal Church and her many friends, too many to mention, across the miles, who loved and cared for her deeply.
Come celebrate Amy’s life at a memorial service and reception, which will be held on Saturday, November 13, 3 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1500 State Street.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in Amy’s memory may be made to:
• Amy Van Meter Internship for Mediation & Restorative Justice, care of the UCSB Office of Development Santa Barbara, CA 93106-2013, (805) 893-3994. Online donations can be made at www.ucsb.edu (click “Giving to UCSB,” “Giving online,” under special initiatives: Van Meter Memorial Fund). Or, checks can be made out to the UCSB Foundation, indicating the Van Meter Memorial Fund.
• The Visiting Nurses and Hospice of Santa Barbara, 222 East Canon Perdido Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, 965-5555.
• The MS Society, Channel Islands Office, 14 West Valerio St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101, 682-8783.