Women on the Border lost a true friend on July 18, 2011 when Denise “Neecy” Ann Vergez ended her eight year battle with ovarian cancer. She was 46 years old.
Denise designed and created the first website for Women on the Border in 2001. At the time she was director of the Household Hazardous Waste project in Central Texas and her talents in geographic information systems and computer science merged with her passionate efforts to educate and inform the public about the importance of eliminating toxicity from our communities and the planet.
When Denise learned about the efforts of the incipient WOB to bring awareness to the issues of working women and children being affected by toxicity in the maquiladoras at the Mexican border, she convinced the founder to take advantage of the internet as an evolving tool for public education. The relationship formed between WOB and Denise was life transforming.
Denise loved the planet and all animals, dogs and cats especially. During the eight years that she fought her cancer she never gave up hope that she would get better and while doing all she could spiritually and medically to be at peace with her illness, she maintained an amazing capacity for humor, kindness for those less fortunate, and time to share with her family and friends from all walks of life.
To know Denise was to end up knowing an amazing variety of people, many of whom shared her passion for protecting the planet, its people and animals and for defending the weak and powerless. She felt it important to speak truth to power when others were afraid or unwilling. She was a talented photographer and videographer. She used those talents to assist in educational projects for WOB or for entertaining her friends with pictures and videos of themselves enjoying each other’s company and Denise’s stories about her family and old or new friends.
Denise also loved working with handyman/carpenter tools of all kinds. If something needed fixing Neecy was the person to ask first for an opinion or a gadget, or a website link for further research on what to do. In her last job she was using her love of even bigger computer tools to monitor remotely air traffic safety towers throughout the country.
Denise had a strong dislike for the corporatization of the health care industry. At the time of her first diagnosis she was dropped by her insurance company for “failure” to alert them to the fact that she had lost a sister when she was a child to leukemia. The battles she endured in those early years were often unjust and cruel. In her last year she encouraged her friends and family not to forget those who were afflicted by cancer and who could not afford the array of pain and nutritional resources required by cancer patients.
Donations can be made on behalf of Denise Vergez to the Shivers Cancer Center in Austin, Texas where Denise met and loved many dedicated staff and hopeful, optimistic cancer patients.
Denise, we bid you farewell. May your passion for creating a better world be an inspiration to others to speak up, to give generously to those in need, and to walk through the world with humor and a big heart.