Rose Lancaster, a longtime advocate for quality health care and other services for the poor, died Thursday. She was 86.
Lancaster was part of the coalition that pushed to get Austin’s homeless shelter, Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, built.
She also volunteered for several health-related organizations, including the board of Central Health.
“Nobody did anything in this town related to indigent health care without involving Rose,” said Toni Inglis, editor of a nursing publication at Seton Healthcare Family. “It always took political will and resources and they called Rose because she was trustworthy and knew what she was doing.”
Lancaster was born in Atlanta, Ga. and raised in Mississippi. Her father was a Presbyterian minister who ran a school for African-American girls in Mississippi. That upbringing influenced her desire to help others, said her daughter, Liz Rockwell.
“She did what needed to be done, but in a quiet and gentle way,” Rockwell said.
Lancaster moved to Austin as a newlywed in 1955, raised four children and had several professional roles, including executive director of the after-school program Extend-A-Care.
But she was always active in volunteer work locally, statewide and internationally, friends and family said.
Lancaster started several programs to help the homeless, including one that pays for first month’s rent or security deposits to get people into housing, said Helen Varty, who used to manage Austin’s homeless shelter.
Lancaster for several years served on a board overseeing Austin community health clinics, then became one of the original board members for Central Health.
“She was just a delightful person — someone who has very strong principles and convictions but could communicate with people who didn’t necessarily agree,” said Central Health board member Clarke Heidrick.
Rosie Mendoza, who served with Lancaster on Central Health and now leads the board, said: “This community has lost a person who was committed to health care and ensuring that those who were most in need got the services that they deserved.”
Patricia Young Brown, Central Health’s president and CEO, said she admired Lancaster’s intelligence and strength.
Lancaster “was a champion for health care for our most vulnerable citizens and neighbors,” she said. “She was just a very common sense, direct person. She always had something worthwhile to contribute.”
Lancaster is survived by her husband, Jim, her daughter, her sons Jim, David and Doug, seven grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
A service to celebrate her life will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Central Presbyterian Church.