Ruth (Daisy) Stack – President
Ruth was raised in the small town of Monroe, New York. In 1979, she married Roy Stack. Ruth and Roy have two children, Dariel and Timothy who reside in New Jersey, along with their dog, cat, exotic birds, bunny and pond fish. Her interests include taming wild animals, caring for friends and growing Jersey tomatoes and blueberries.
Ruth cares deeply about people; therefore, it is not surprising that she earns her living as a certified home health aide. Ruth enjoys serving on the Board of New Jersey Coalition on Women and Disabilities, Ocean County Chapter, contributing her leadership and organization skills to develop activities for Coalition members.
She has always cared about accessibility for her family and friends and has a keen interest in promoting the revitalization of ADA awareness in Ocean County.
Susan Payne Gato, RN – Vice President
Susan, the youngest of four children, was two and a half years old when she contracted Infantile Paralysis (polio) during an epidemic in NYC in 1947. In Willard Parker Hospital, The Bronx, Susan was confined to isolation for six months. Following discharge, Susan did not recognize her family; she had to learn to walk again; had right foot surgery at age six and wore a full-length leg brace to age ten. Through rehabilitation and support, by age 11, she was able to participate in most of life’s activities.
Susan became a nurse and an advocate and worked for forty years until Post Polio Syndrome (PPS) was diagnosed at age 58. Fatigue, pain and new weakness caused her to stop working, and she discovered that she had to make many lifestyle changes. She found acceptance to be a journey with sometimes unanticipated struggles involving friends and family. With a Degree in Ornamental Horticulture, Susan, with the use of assistive devices, has altered her property so she can still enjoy light gardening and the outdoors. She uses a scooter for large public areas and is learning to ask for help when she needs it in an effort to “Conserve to Preserve.”
Susan is married to US Army Veteran and retired Police Detective Richard M. Gato who was one of the first responders at the World Trade Center disaster September 11, 2001. They have 2 daughters and 2 grandchildren. Their grandchildren have a disability—severe food allergies— and must always carry emergency medication with them. Susan is also an advocate for www.foodallergy.org.
In 1995, following Susan’s time in Public Office as Councilwoman and Mayor, the Gato family moved from Fort Lee to Toms River, NJ. Once in Ocean County, she involved her family in their new community and enjoyed the beauty and serenity of the Jersey Shore. She was an Operating Room Nurse at a local hospital and later became the Director of Nursing at an Ambulatory Surgery Center.
Susan Payne Gato is Co-Chair of Ocean County Post Polio Support Group and also a Board Member of the Polio Network of New Jersey. She is a member of NJ Coalition on Women and Disabilities, Toms River ADA Group, Americans with Disabilities Act Ocean County Action Network (ADAOCAN), American Legion Auxiliary Post 129, Garden Club of Toms River and a member of United Spinal Association. Former Mayor Brush and Mayor Thomas F. Kelaher of Toms River Township appointed Susan to the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. She served from 2004 to 2009. Susan continues to promote awareness and provides information on ADA enforcement. In 2006, Susan was nominated and was one of the proud recipients of the annual 100.1 WJRZ Exceptional Women Award.
PPS continues to be a challenging adjustment for her and her family. Susan is learning to focus on ability, not disability. Always a believer in “Power in Numbers”, Susan continues to see growth in support groups that provide protection, strength and ownership to its members. These groups accomplish many needed changes for the benefit of so many and ultimately the society at large.
Her motto: “Make time for some fun everyday.” Her advice: “Be visible and be a part of your community. Experience the joy of making new friends and widening your support system. Set new goals, experience new adventures, be an advocate and promote awareness.”
Dorothy Blyth McDowell – Treasurer
Dorothy contracted polio when she was 2 years old. She was mainstreamed through the public school system, earned an AB from Douglass and a Masters from Seton Hall, worked at Bell Labs for 29 years and took an early retirement as the result of a major car accident. After moving to Toms River, Dorothy married, traveled throughout the United States in a converted van/camper and enjoyed visiting her extended family-4 children and 5 grandchildren.
When her husband lost his fight with cancer, Dorothy’s story-book marriage ended abruptly. She eventually reached out to her community by serving on several local, county and state organizations. Her efforts were acknowledged when she became the proud recipient of the Soroptimist International of Toms River “1991 Women of Distinction Award,” and in 2011, she was inducted into the Ocean County Women’s Hall of Fame.
After passing an extensive training course, Dorothy was certified as a consultant under the New Jersey Barrier-Free Subcode. When the ADA was signed into law, she remembered her days on campus where access was so difficult. But now a law guaranteed access! The next morning and many mornings after that, nothing had changed. Why? To learn more about the ADA, Dorothy attended meetings, seminars and workshops. She was the first chairperson to be appointed to the newly organized Toms
River Mayor’s Americans with Disabilities Act Advisory Committee.
In 2005, Dorothy, along with 3 other people, was selected by The New Jersey Institute of Technology to review the draft of A Home for Life the manual on creating a supportive home environment to assist aging in place with an intellectual/developmental disability.
Currently, Dorothy chairs ADAOCAN. She is a Board Member of OCPPSG and a member of NJ Coalition on Women and Disabilities, the Ocean County Transportation
Advisory Committee for Seniors and Persons with Disabilities and the Ocean County Commission for Individuals with Disabilities.
Dorothy enjoys reading, forming lasting friendships, entertaining friends and family, routing for the Yankees and keeping a sense of humor. She looks forward to a society where universal design prevails.
Colleen O’Dell-Multer – Recording Secretary
Colleen O’Dell-Multer is a registered nurse living in Brick, New Jersey. In 1982, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. While living in Pennsylvania, Colleen became an activist in 1985 for the rights of people with disabilities and continued on this path when she moved to Ocean County, New Jersey, in 1994. In the community of Brick Township, she is a member of the Brick ADA Compliance Committee. Colleen is also active in Ocean County as amember of the Ocean County Transportation Advisory Committee for Senior Citizens and Persons with Disabilities and the Ocean County Commission for Individuals with Disabilities. She also serves as a consultant on accessibility issues to the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
Colleen works at the election polls in Brick and serves as an advisor on disabilities to the County Board of Elections. She was recognized as the first person with multiple disabilities, including legal blindness, to become a full-time poll worker. Colleen is president of New Jersey Coalition on Women and Disabilities, Ocean County Chapter. She helped establish the Ocean County Chapter of Next Step Action Forum and presently serves as the facilitator to the organization. As an advocate for people with disabilities, Colleen has appeared before the New Jersey State Legislature and the United States Congress.
Colleen O’Dell-Multer’s philosophy is “People with disabilities want to be enabled to participate in the community. They need to have choice and access. Enrich them, don’t restrict them.”
Born in Germany, Jerry was diagnosed with polio at six months of age. He was placed in isolation at a hospital away from his parents for ten months. In 1949, he came to the United States, and, at age eleven, became a U.S. citizen. For many years he worked in retail management in operations and spent twelve years as a representative investment advisor for a Wall Street firm. Diagnosed with Post Polio Syndrome in his late forties, combined with other medical issues, he was forced to retire. One of Jerry’s interests includes helping animals by making monetary contributions. He has served as a Board Member of Ocean County Post Polio Support Group. As a Board Member of ADAOCAN, he hopes to help ensure that Ocean County is following the laws of the ADA that were signed in 1990.
Born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, Ruth grew up in Upper Darby and Kingston, Pennsylvania. Married to a Naval Academy graduate meant moving and establishing homes throughout the United States for 30 years. Navy retirement was followed by a move to Toms River, New Jersey, employment at Oyster Creek and a divorce, ending a 38 year marriage.
Ruth, reflecting back on her childhood, remembered that in 1953, as a senior in high school, she contracted polio and spent a year recovering in rehab. This influenced her career choices. A BS degree in Bacteriology from Michigan State University began years of healthcare employment as a California licensed and ASCP registered Medical Technologist, a Client Service Supervisor for National Health Laboratories, and finally 18 years in Field Sales for Wyeth Laboratories.
Accomplishments include raising 4 very successful children (all college graduates). She has 10 grandchildren, but no family lives locally.
Several activities keep Ruth very busy: greyhound adoption for the Greyhound Adoption Program, the Ocean County Post Polio Support Group, Coalition on Women and Disabilities and ADAOCAN.