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Created on Wednesday, 30 January 2013 09:28 Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 January 2013 09:28 Published on Wednesday, 30 January 2013 09:28 Written by Christian Morrow - Courier Staff Writer Hits: 1109
ORA LEE CARROLL
It didn’t matter to Ora Lee Carroll if you were a staunch conservative like former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, or a dedicated progressive like state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Lawrenceville. If you could bring resources to her neighborhood to battle drugs and violence, or assist with housing and business development, you got her calls.
And you got them until you promised to do something, and after that, if the result was even the slightest bit different from what she wanted; congressman, mayor, councilman, she would call you out publicly if she thought you had slighted her community. She did not pull her punches.
Carroll who founded East Liberty Concerned Citizens Corp. and created the original comprehensive Larimer Plan for community development passed away surrounded by family in Norfolk, Va., Jan. 25, after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was 71.
“She gave new meaning to the term ‘in your face advocacy. She never needed a microphone,” said Ferlo. “People didn’t always understand her, but she was a grass-roots advocate, and I always respected the way she extended herself personally, taking in single-parent kids, mentoring. She always made an effort to connect with young people. So it’s a great loss.”
Originally from Florida, Carroll moved to Pittsburgh in the late 1960s, and by the mid-1970s, when Ferlo met her, she was already advocating for youth programming and improved housing throughout Pittsburgh’s East End.
The most ambitious part of her original Larimer plan centered on renovating the old Larimer Avenue School into a medical center and rehabilitating the surrounding homes into senior housing. Though funds for architectural designs and street plans were allocated, as happened with many of her big plans, development money was never committed.
“It was sad to see her struggle over the last few years, particularly for me because I just recently lost a sister to cancer,” said Ferlo. “But she learned to give up a measure of control and accepted the leadership of others, and now we have the Larimer Consensus Group that she helped form, and a new comprehensive Larimer Plan. “
Malik Bankston, executive director of the Kingsley Association, said while there were times when she was her own worst enemy, she was committed to her community.
“She was not going to be ignored. Whether you agreed with her or not, no one could question her dedication to the task of rebuilding Larimer,” he said. “She stood firm when it would have been easy to walk away. If there is anything people should take from her example, it is that.”
Her neighbor and best friend for more than 40 years, Betty Lane said Carroll was a visionary.
“She was a friend, a sister, a confidant and a mentor. She helped in other communities but she dedicated her work and life to the Larimer community,” she said. “I am very glad to have known her and proud to have her acknowledge me as the sister I never had. I miss her but her legacy lives on.”
Carroll is survived by a sister Eloise Matthews of Maryland and five daughters; Eloise Carroll, Fontia Bottoms of Homewood, Delphia Jackson of East Hills, Wanda Lee West of Norfolk, Theresa Carroll of Wilkinsburg and Wesley S. Carroll of Pittsburgh. One daughter, Hope Carroll, preceded her in death, leaving a son, also named Wesley, whom Ora Lee raised. Carroll is also survived by five grandsons and 19 granddaughters.
Funeral arrangements were made by Metropolitan Funeral Home of Norfolk. Though a memorial service is planned for Pittsburgh, those arrangements have not been finalized.
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