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In Memoriam

Paula Goldberg

Paula Goldberg, PACER Center Executive Director
Leading PACER 1977 - 2022

Read Paula's Story

PACER’s board and staff invite you to share a tribute or favorite memory.

Paula was my “cornerstone” at PACER Center. 

She was one of the most formidable people in the disability community.  She welcomed my “big picture” gift along with my ADHD impulsivity, from the moment she hired me in 1999.  

I remember being in her office on 48th and Chicago in Minneapolis for my second interview.  

She asked me what I knew about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and I stated I had read and highlighted many of the 647 pages as I helped families in my community navigate special education for their children. 

I looked at her round table and there sitting was a crystal Award for “Launch Magazine” , which was in CD form at that time. My ADHD took over and I looked at her and exclaimed, “You all know about Launch Magazine? “ 

I immediately gained my composure, after all I was in a job interview... 

Paula smiled and explained her son David and his friend were responsible for Launch Magazine.  

She then offered me my first paid employment as an educational advocate, which I accepted.  

We had many conversations about processes and quality, she liked that I am a Trained Quality Evaluator for schools, hospitals, and businesses.  

She understood people.... 

After PACER Center moved into the current building in 2000, Paula walked up to me and stated, “You really are a good person, welcome home” and I thanked her. 

We had many productive process conversations throughout the years.... 

Bonnie Jean Smith - Minneapolis, Minnesota

I am one of Paula's first cousins (her mom and my dad were siblings). As we mourn Paula's passing and think about all her tremendous work over the years, I am reminded of our roots and how Paula's energy and dedication to task were passed on from our parents and grandparents to all our cousins. While all are successful people, Paula touched so many people, really throughout the world. We have been privileged to know her and to be so happy for her bringing success to so many for whom success may have seemed out of reach.  As the sign on Paula's desk says, "Nothing is Impossible". I'll add, " with Paula Goldberg on the job".

We send our heartfelt condolences to Rob, Sandy and Mort, Sheryl, Paula's grandchildren, to our many cousins, to all those whom Paula touched, and, of course, to the PACER organization and community. 

I remember Paula from toddlerhood - in Rochester - and her family's visits to Mpls. In our early adult years Paula introduced us to Mel. He was a favorite with his humor, singing, guitar playing, and intelligence. What a couple they made! David and Robert were "apples close to the tree".

Later, Lois and I visited PACER at its various sites. There we saw family members who pitched in "early and often". Especially Paula's mom, Helen, and cousin Guita Wolk, made for a homey feeling, including for all who sought help from PACER. 

I recall Paula's hand puppets in PACER's early days. She came to schools and clinics and entertained kids of many ages. From Paula and her puppets these children and the adults with them learned of differences between people and how differences could be advantages, and how bullying causes harm to those bullied and also to those bullying. Paula's has brought her anti-bullying programs throughout the U.S. and to other countries. 

The PACER Benefit was always an important event, bringing family and the PACER staff and community together. It was a great time to catch up and, of course, to spend some time with Paula and her family.

As the years flew by we stayed in touch. We were shocked by David's death at an early age, and we noticed how Paula supported others during this time of great personal loss, coming not that many years after Mel passed. We were aware that Paula's health was becoming fragile in the past two years, but it came as a shock when Sandy called to tell us Paula died that morning. We will all grieve her loss and celebrate her memory.

Our best to PACER now and in the future. We know Paula has set PACER on a great course and it will continue to fulfill her legacy.

With our love, and sorrow for the loss we all share. Many Paula's memory always be as a blessing.

Dale and Lois Dobrin

Dale and Lois Dobrin - Minnetonka, MN

She was an inspiration to many and will be missed dearly.

Pamela Martinson - Detroit Lakes MN

Paula touched so many lives.  Such a great honor and gift for those of us lucky to have worked with Paula – she was a life force!  I hope she realized how many children and parents around the world had their path made a bit easier because she decided to be a champion for children with disabilities. Her compassion and strength will always be a part of PACER Center. 

Mark O'Leary - St. Paul MN

Paula was an powerful, dedicated and tireless leader. She changed the lives of countless young people for the better. We are lucky to have had her in our lives.

Barbara Gage - Minnesota

I met Paula about 9 years ago when I was seeking out resources for my son. She immediately welcomed me with open arms and brought me into the Pacer family. Paula’s  life work and dedication to others has impacted countless families and she inspired those around her, wherever she went. Paula was always eager to take on big goals for Pacer and faced life with such optimism. She was a true force for good and will be so missed by all those who knew and loved her. 

Sara Sagedahl - Edina, MN

From a seed of an idea to a expansive agency, Paula Goldberg believed in the power of parents.  She believed in equality of experience for children with disabilities.  She believed every single child was a valuable member of our community. For these things I personally am grateful for the time Paula was given to support her visions becoming reality. Thank you Paula Goldberg. 

Suzanne Downs - St Paul

I had the pleasure of being employed at PACER Center for many years after graduating from college. As I embarked on being a "working woman", Paula's office was only a few steps away from mine. I was able to view this amazing leader in action every day. She inspired those around her and had a true passion for the work she was doing. She was a wonderful example for me and those around her. She will be missed by so many.

Now, I work at ACET Inc in Bloomington (not far from the PACER building) and I support an initiative to provide a community of practice for care coordinators for children and youth with disabilities across the state of MN. Many PACER folks attend our events. I want to extend ACET's heartfelt sorrow and grief at Paula's passing. She was certainly one of a kind!

Lisa Perkins Smith - Carver, MN

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