He'll Be Missed

A mental-health advocate succumbs to a brain tumor

Last September 22, veteran mental-health advocate Jack Harvey looked at a visitor from his hospital bed and got to the point.

"There's so much to do still," Harvey said, "and I've just been one guy trying my best to help things along. I think folks ought to know that, if you look far enough into a family or into the people who make up an organization, you're going to get involved in some way with mental health. And that's a fact."

Harvey, who'd been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor just a few weeks earlier, then excused himself and fell asleep ("Mental Giant," Paul Rubin, September 26).

Long known as one of Arizona's most durable and effective advocates for the seriously mentally ill most recently as a full-time volunteer for the nonprofit Mental Health Advocates of Arizona Harvey seemed to be coping with his own pending demise. But he expressed far more concern about the population he wouldn't be able to help anymore.

"There are so many good people working on behalf of the SMI [seriously mentally ill] in this state, but there are never enough advocates," Harvey said. "This is a scary time for all of us post-September 11 world and all but especially people for those who can't cope with stuff in the best of times."

Jack Harvey lingered for a few months after that conversation, before dying January 18 at Phoenix's Life Care Center of Paradise Valley. He was 72.

Last Friday, an overflow group of mourners at the Hansen Desert Hills Mortuary contemplated the sad reality of a world without their pal. Dignitaries such as Arizona Department of Health Services director Cathy Eden mingled with representatives of the mentally ill community that Harvey had championed for more than three decades.

Harvey had migrated to Arizona from Iowa in the 1960s. He worked as a social worker at the Arizona State Hospital for 30 years, during which time he earned a reputation as a practical humanitarian, and as a guy who would fight relentlessly for the rights of the mentally ill.

Near the end of the memorial service, Pastor David Wilsterman challenged those in attendance to try to pick up the slack caused by Harvey's passing. But the overriding theme in the lobby afterward was one more of trepidation and anguish than determination to carry on Harvey's good works.

"He was just one of those people who made an impact on everyone he met," said Mickie White-Carstens, the new president of the Advocates Coalition. "We're all up in the air a little bit right now."

 
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