Eleanor Josaitis, the co-founder of Focus: HOPE and a person who embodied the heart and soul of Detroit, died peacefully at Angela Hospice in Livonia at age 79. She may be gone but her legacy will live on for generations to come.
I had the privilege of knowing Eleanor and serving on several committees with her. I was forever taken in by her spirit and her passion for Detroit and its people. She worked tirelessly to help those in need and never, never took no for answer. She would get in your face, push you to do the right thing and join her cause. She was tough. She demanded results.
She was also full of love and hope. There were always hugs and warm words and the knowledge that she expected you to do what you could to help her change the world. She fought hunger, lack of education and prejudice and worked every day to replace them with hope. She believed in Detroit and its people and believed each one of us can make a difference.
Last year Eleanor was named one of the most powerful people in Detroit by Crain’s Detroit Business. She was but that power came from love and caring not money, position or fanfare. Her influence was felt from board rooms to soup kitchens.
The last time I saw Eleanor my friend Maura Campbell and I visited her at the Karmanos Cancer Institute. Her hair was gone and her voice was very soft, but her eyes burned bright blue and her passion for her causes was evident. As you might guess we left with an assignment … keep working to get Detroit’s transformation story out. She also wanted some good Scotch. Very Eleanor.
Eleanor inspired us to be better and do better. She’s gone. She’s taken her rightful place in heaven and is being greeted with open arms by God. There was so much more she wanted to do to right the world’s and Detroit’s wrongs. Those tasks are now up to those of us left behind.
In a 2004 article in Fast Company, Eleanor said, “You have to have the guts to try something because you won’t change a damn thing by sitting in front of the TV with the clicker in your hand.” She got up and made a difference every day. She expects no less of us.