Photo:  Nancy Herndon Cale (right) – January 5, 1944- August 11, 2017
Shown with Unlocking Autism co-founder Shelley Hendrix

Nancy Herndon Cale, the warm, compassionate voice behind ARI’s helpline for more than a decade, passed away unexpectedly August 11, 2017. She was 73.

Often the first friend parents looking for support could reach, Nancy persisted as an advocate in the autism community for more than 20 years. After her grandson was diagnosed with autism at age 3, she co-founded Unlocking Autism in his honor. Nancy worked to bring awareness to the increase in diagnoses in partnership with state and local governments and was recognized with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for her efforts.

In 2006, after the passing of ARI’s founder Dr. Rimland, Nancy began taking calls to ARI from parents and caregivers. Having manned a call center for several years, she knew what to expect. Nancy possessed the uncanny ability to sense when to offer help and when to be quiet and listen. Patience and a gentle, self-deprecating sense of humor armed her with an unusual talent for putting others at ease when sharing the details of the challenges they faced.

She once explained her calling: “I am humbled each and every day by the depth of the needs and concerns of those who call searching for help for their loved ones with autism. I am happy knowing the generous heart of our community makes it possible to assure new parents, parents facing new struggles, and adults looking for help. Bless you all who take time to reach out to others as we work to make life better for those who ask for our help.”

In 2008, Nancy became a key administrative staff member for ARI conferences, coordinating fulfillment for event mailings and eventually serving as the vendor manager through the conference’s conclusion in 2012. Through it all, Nancy answered the joint ARI/Unlocking Autism resource line daily, continuing to field calls until the day she was admitted to the hospital in mid-August.

Hundreds of messages of comfort and remembrance reached Nancy’s family through email, social media, and in person in the days following her passing. We gratefully pay tribute to our vibrant, kind friend, whose hard work will continue to inspire all of us at ARI and those whose lives she touched for many years to come.