Mary Ann Jones, executive director of the Westside Center for Independent Living in Mar Vista for over ten years, has died. She was 63.

Jones died September 24th in Burbank with her husband, Don, and daughter, Wendy, at her side.

She was born January 20th, 1944 in Omaha to Eva and Delbert Nordell.

Her strength of character and empathy were two of her most admired traits, friends said.

Jones graduated from Saydel High School in Des Moines in 1962 and a year later married her high school sweetheart, Don. She and Don became the parents of their only child, Wendy, in 1965.

During a family camping trip at the age of 23, Jones dove into a lake, breaking her neck and severing her spinal column, which resulted in permanent paralysis. As a quadriplegic, Jones gave credit to her time at the Sister Kenny Institute in Minneapolis, where she gained the power to continue her life independently with her husband at her side, friends said.

Jones later began her work on behalf of people with disabilities as a volunteer for United Way. In 1981 she graduated with honors from Mankato State University in Mankato, Minnesota with a degree in communications.

Recognition of her skill in disability issues started when she became associate director at the Sister Kenny Institute.

She opened her own communications company in 1988, when she and her husband moved to Burbank.

Jones first joined the staff at the Westside Center for Independent Living as grants and public affairs manager. She later held the position of development director and in 1996 she became executive director, the position she held until her death.

Among her awards and honors within the disability community are the Los Angeles County Commission on Disability Access Award and the Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women Pioneer Woman Award.

Jones is survived by her husband of 44 years, Don, their daughter, Wendy, and two brothers, Dennis and Curtis Nordell.

The family says contributions in her memory may be made to the Westside Center for Independent Living, 12901 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles 90066.

A memorial service for Jones was held Tuesday, October 2nd, at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church.