Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) is mourning the loss of past national president and former executive director Homer S. Townsend Jr., who passed away on Feb 20. He was 63
Homer S. Townsend Jr. dedicated 41 years of his life to PVA, serving the organization in many capacities, from the chapter level to national, including as the organization’s 31st national president from October 1998 to September 2000.
“The passing of Homer S. Townsend Jr., is a tremendous loss for Paralyzed Veterans of America and for every veteran and person with disability for whom he dedicated his life and career to defending,” says Al Kovach Jr., PVA national president. “In addition to his military service to this country, he was a staunch advocate of civil rights and veteran’s benefits. He leaves an unmatched legacy. We are deeply saddened by his passing and add our own sincere condolences to those being sent from around the country by friends, family, and colleagues."
Since his passing, many leaders in the veteran community have offered their condolences and remembered his long career serving veterans and all people with disabilities.
“Homer was always a strong advocate for Paralyzed Veterans of America, and all veterans, but he always advocated in a constructive and positive way, focused on better outcomes for veterans rather than his own standing. It was never about Homer. It was always about the veterans he served,” says Robert McDonald, U.S. Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Homer epitomized the best of America. His service to PVA and our nation's veterans was extraordinary. He will be missed,” says former VA Secretary Anthony Principi.
Homer S. Townsend Jr., being presented with a Vietnam War service pin during last year's PVA Board of Director's meeting in Phoenix, Ariz. Photo Christopher DiVirgilio.
“Homer Townsend Jr. demonstrated the true meaning of lifelong service. His years of honorable service in the U.S. Marine Corps, tenure as Paralyzed Veterans President, and term as Paralyzed Veterans Executive Director distinguish him as one of our most highly regarded champions. His intellect, inimitable style, and political savvy made him a one-of-a-kind mentor to me. He left his mark on all of us, particularly those charged with carrying the organization forward, and the arc of our potential is directly attributed to his leadership. While he will be missed in body, his presence and influence will be deeply embedded in our organizational character as we look ahead,” says Paralyzed Veterans Acting Executive Director Sherman Gillums Jr.
Townsend first volunteered as acting executive director of Paralyzed Veterans in 2006. That same year he was awarded Paralyzed Veterans’ Speedy Award, the organization’s highest honor, in recognition of his significant contributions to improving the lives of America’s paralyzed veterans. He remained executive director, after being officially appointed to the position in 2008, until his recent retirement this past January. He also served as the first Chairman of the Paralyzed Veterans’ Field Advisory Committee, advocating for the VA Spinal Cord Injury/Disease (SCI/D) system of care.
A disability rights champion, early in his career, while serving as Arizona chapter executive vice president, he was responsible for bringing the Access to the Skies Conference out of Washington, D.C. to Phoenix, where thanks to his hard work advocacy it grew from 40 attendees to more than 200, bringing light to the access problems individuals with disabilities face when traveling.
In addition to his work with PVA, Townsend also served as a member of the President’s Committee on Employment of Persons with Disabilities, the Arizona Governor’s Committee on Employment of Persons with Disabilities (1992-96), and the Mesa Mayor’s Committee on Handicap Awareness for six years, two of which he served as chair of the committee. He was presented the key to the city by the mayor for his dedicated service.
Originally from Woodland, Maine, Townsend joined the U.S. Marine Corps in November 1969, where he served as an aircraft electrician for 5½ years. He sustained a spinal cord injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident in 1974, and was medically retired from the Marine Corps in 1975 at the rank of staff sergeant.
Townsend is survived by his son, Dale, and his three grandchildren, as well as his brother, Harold, and sister, Terry Townsend.
A viewing for Townsend will be held from 6-9 p.m. on Wednesday, March 2 at Murphy Funeral Home (4510 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Va). The memorial service will take place at 9 a.m. on Friday, March 4 at Murphy Funeral Home, followed by the interment at at 1 p.m at Quantico National Cemetery. For detailed information regarding the Townsend services, click HERE.
Flowers may be sent to Murphy Funeral Home to arrive on Wednesday, March 2. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Paralyzed Veterans of America, 801 18th Street NW, Washington, DC 20006.