Beloved “Dr. E” led the organization for 38 years.
Published: August 31, 2020
By: Carol Muse Evans
Dr. Gary Edwards served United Ability, formerly United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Birmingham, for 38 years. He recently passed away at 72 after an extended illness.
The entire United Ability family and all who had been touched by Dr. Edwards mourns his passing. “Dr. E” was the voice of “possibilities,” and he was considered a “larger-than-life” presence at United Ability over the years.
Alison Berman, United Ability chief development officer, says Dr. Edwards “built this,” referring to United Ability. “He was a visionary who has touched the lives of more than 4,000 people each year at United Ability, from birth to adult, and he knew them all by name.
“He had the innate ability to envision what could be, and he never stopped,” Berman says.
Tina E. Shaddix, United Ability chief operating officer, adds, “The passing of Dr. Edwards is an indescribable loss for United Ability and people everywhere living with disabilities. His reach was far and wide. Our executive team and board of directors will follow the example set by Dr. E and carry on his passion for creating a world where disability is neither defining or limiting. His vision of empowering people to dream new dreams will forever live in our hearts and guide us as we move forward.”
Dr. Edwards was well-known, respected and loved throughout the special needs community. Dr. John Mascia, president of the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, says he has many wonderful memories of him. “Walking with him at United Ability on any given day meant we would stop and speak with so many of the participants he felt so blessed to know. He knew each person by name, and his smile and warm embraces made him a ‘rock star’ in the eyes of his people,” Mascia says. “I wake up every day and try to be a leader that Dr. Gary Edwards would be proud of,” Mascia adds. “I try to lead by his example. I miss my friend.”
Doug Marshall, former CFO for Untied Ability and CEO of the Presbyterian Home for Children, says, “Dr. Edwards believed that every child and adult with a disability had immeasurable value and great purpose, and he walked out fully his calling on this earth to help provide hope and ability for these individuals along with their caregivers. Dr. E was a servant leader with solid integrity and the biggest heart ever!”
United Ability provides early intervention and early learning programs that build the right foundation for lifelong, family-focused medical care and therapy that contribute to great independence, improved mobility and enhanced quality of life, to adult programs and employment services that lead to successful employees. A lifelong advocate for people living with disabilities, Dr. Edwards served on multiple local, state and national boards.
Dr. Edwards’ funeral was held on June 9. The family requests donations be made to United Ability in his memory at www.unitedablity.org/give.
Carol Muse Evans is editor/publisher of Birmingham Parent.