Cornelia “Toni” Busse epitomized the terms self-help, client rights, empowerment, advocacy, risk-taker and visionary. Her fifty years of volunteer service began in her children’s elementary school. From there she went on to volunteer with the Marin Public Health Department, and her work was a sparkplug, igniting others to action. She participated in the formation of four continuing empowerment programs: Community Mental Health (CMH) Companion Program, the Office of the Patient Advocate for CMH, the Network of Mental Health Clients/Enterprise Resource Center and Labor Support Services.
Challenging the status quo was a hallmark of Toni’s efforts. As a supporter of women and individuals in the mental health system, she investigated ways to make sure that the projects she worked on could be institutionalized and maintained despite (sometimes) daunting obstacles. Her outrage at denial of basic rights to women prisoners in the Marin County jail led her to persuade the local Red Cross to sponsor a program addressing those needs. That is just one example of her response to unfairness toward those who are the most powerless, disadvantaged, stigmatized and marginalized.
For fifty years, Toni served the needs of others with her husband, children and grandchildren. Her legacy is one of tremendous courage, tenacity and persistence in speaking out on behalf of those who do not have a voice or whose voice is often not heard.