ON APRIL 12TH, DOZENS OF FRIENDS, colleagues, family members and community members gathered at Nebo Christian Ministries, to celebrate the life of Carolyn Lynn (Covington) Massey, who touched the lives of so many, and whose legacy of service has inspired those around her to pick up that legacy and live it.

Massey was born in Wadesboro, North Carolina, and grew up there and in New Jersey. In high school, she served as captain of the cheerleading squad, played basketball, and graduated with honors. She later studied business administration in college. She married James B. Massey Sr., and had two children, James, Jr., and Marissa.

Massey made it her mission to educate community stakeholders including public health, business and faith leaders, about health equity and social justice concerns, encouraging them to create strategies to prevent and treat chronic diseases, and to build health and wellness collaborations. As a 25-year long-term survivor of HIV / AIDS, making the world a better place for others living with the disease became her life’s work and passion.

Massey established and served as the founding director of the Positive Impact HIV / AIDS Ministry at New Samaritan Baptist Church in Washington, DC, which comemmorated her as “a woman of purpose, integrity, and passion.” She was the Founding CEO of Massmer Associates, which offers help for people with chronic disease.

She served as an HIV Commissioner for the District of Columbia and for Anne Arundel County, as chair of the Greater Baltimore HIV Health Services Planning Council, and as chair of the Places of Worship Advisory Board of the DC Department of Health. Massey became a federally certified facilitator and trainer of facilitators of Centers for Disease Control approved, evidence-based interventions, helping to bring these prevention programs to Baltimore and DC metro areas.

“She was tireless in her efforts to promote coalitions among community organizations and government agencies,” said Stephanie Brooks-Wiggins. “Her input will be missed on so many levels. She leaves large shoes to fill, and a void in all our hearts.”

Massey was a recognized national speaker and trainer on HIV / AIDS and the intersecting issues of women, aging adults, African-American health disparities, and faith communities. She attended the 2010 White House Special Meetings on HIV and Aging and spoke before the 2013 Senate Special Committee on HIV and Aging, and spoke at the 2012 International Conference on AIDS on HIV and aging. Massey participated in national educational campaigns on HIV and aging, as contributed to documentaries on the topic. She had many published works and white papers.

Massey believed that no one was far removed from HIV / AIDS, and worked to fight HIV stigma and discrimination. She believed that by giving a face to HIV / AIDS, and that highlighting those who were successfully managing their lives, others would be able to better understand the humanity of those dealing with the illness. “Mother was as delicate as a rose, but strong as a rock,” said Marissa E. Massey.

Massey was in recent years best known for her work as head of Older Women Embracing Life (OWEL), women dedicated to providing support for women, many living with and all impacted by HIV / AIDS, as well as their families and care providers. OWEL helps to prepare women to live successful lives, despite their health challenges, to enjoy enhanced personal networks and an improved quality of life. They deliver training, education and volunteer opportunities throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

“I admired her tenacity, her leadership and her resilience in spite of any health challenge,” said Dorcas Baker of OWEL. “She was a great visionary with a unique gift of encouraging others.” The group, she says, vows “to continue her commitment to service and advocacy for individuals living long and well regardless of diagnosis.”

Massey enjoyed sharing all her love with those that could benefit from knowing someone that cared. “Our mother was never afraid to show or share her love,” said James B. Massey, Jr.

“I can never adequately express the joy of connection with Carolyn, how much I learned from the bravery of her always honest communication, the wonder of watching a brilliant thinker create possibilities and realities, despite what might seem like insurmountable odds, and the joy of seeing her give her love so freely, so genuinely, with such a gentle tender touch,” said Joan Garrity of OWEL. “I feel so blessed to have Carolyn’s love in my heart.” – Bill Redmond-Palmer