Marion Sibley Bracken, co-founder of C.A.R.

Publication Date: Wednesday Apr 7, 1999

Marion Sibley Bracken, co-founder of C.A.R.

Marion Sibley Bracken, an activist for the rights of the developmentally disabled and co-founder of Palo Alto's Community Association for Rehabilitation (C.A.R.), died March 31 at her home in Palo Alto. She was 79.

Bracken, a 48-year Palo Alto resident, worked for more than 40 years at local and state levels as an advocate for people with developmental disabilities. In the mid-1950s she helped found C.A.R., a Palo Alto community-based service center for the developmentally disabled. The center, which gives families caring for developmentally-disabled children an alternative to institutionalization, was a revolutionary concept for its time.

"In those days, institutionalization was expected. People like Marion felt strongly that children should be able to learn, and to be part of their families and their communities," said C.A.R. Human Resources Director Margaret Hauck.

"Marion was always exciting to work with. She was creative, and had a positive, optimistic attitude. She motivated the best in you," Hauck said.

A native of Detroit, Bracken was raised in Pontiac, Mich. and received her undergraduate degree in education at Eastern Michigan University. She did graduate work in special education at San Jose State University and taught children with disabilities in the Palo Alto Unified School District for 13 years.

Bracken served as an honorary C.A.R. board member for more than 20 years, and created the Bracken Guild to raise funds for the center in 1971. She was honored for her work at the center in 1997 with the creation of the Marion S. Bracken Achievement Award and Endowment Fund. The award is given each year to the C.A.R. client who has made the most progress toward meeting his or her personal goals. Bracken was also instrumental in creating a preschool at the center, which has since developed into an early-intervention program for infants with developmental disabilities.

For almost 40 years Bracken was active in the Association for the Mentally Retarded at Agnews Developmental Center in Santa Clara. She received appointments to the Governor's Advisory Board at Agnews and also to the Area Developmental Disabilities Board VII, for which she was legislative affairs chair for six years.

Agnews Executive Director Julie Garcia remembered Bracken as a passionate supporter of the rights of the developmentally disabled. Until November of this year Bracken advocated for Senate Bill 1649, which would expand managed care services for children and adults with special needs.

On March 6, a special tribute was held at Agnews in Bracken's honor and Willow Court was renamed "The Marion Bracken Training and Education Center" A sundial was dedicated and inscribed to Bracken at the site.

Bracken is survived by John Bracken, her husband of 56 years; a daughter, Heather Bracken of Granite Bay, Calif.; and two sons, Brendan Bracken of Santa Clara and John Wesley Bracken of San Jose. Services will be held at the chapel on the Agnews campus in Santa Clara on Saturday, April 10 at 3 p.m. Contributions may be made to the Association for the Mentally Retarded at Agnews, P.O. Box 4683, Santa Clara, CA 95054, or to a charity of the donor's choice.

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