AHP Bids a Final Farewell to Darby Penney, December 10, 1952–October 11, 2021

We at AHP are mourning the recent death of our dear friend and colleague, Darby Penney

Darby was internationally recognized as an outspoken advocate for the rights of individuals with psychiatric disabilities. Not content to cheer from the sidelines, she founded the Community Consortium and was a founding member of both the International Network Towards Alternatives and Rights-Based Supports and the National Association of Consumer/Survivor Mental Health Administrators. Darby was honored for her work promoting the civil and human rights of people with psychiatric disabilities, including being named a Petra Foundation Fellow—one of 100 “unsung local heroes fighting injustices and working to make the world more equitable and just.” 

But to her AHP family of 15 years, she was Darby. Darby, determined champion of clarity, ever questioning until proposal teams got it right. Darby, supportive listener to coworkers struggling through difficult personal times. Darby, gardener extraordinaire, eagerly awaiting the appearance of crocuses and scilla every spring. 

Darby cared, and she cared deeply—for the individual and for the masses. Recognizing the peace that it would provide to her loved one, she read poetry to him in his silent final days. Recognizing that lives would be otherwise forgotten, she spearheaded The Suitcase Project based on the discovery of 400 suitcases, boxes, and trunks of personal items taken from people when they were committed to Willard State Hospital in upstate New York. For this remarkable initiative, Darby co-authored The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic and a companion website, and she toured the country with an exhibit of same name.
Darby’s life, too, will not be forgotten. Her unwavering commitment to those we serve at AHP and her lived-experience perspective will continue to guide us. Her unique charm, candidness, wisdom, and intellectualism will remain with us always. 

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