Remembering Founding Trustee Laura Efurd, 1964-2018

Laura was a longtime aide to Patsy Takemoto Mink, joining the team when Patsy  returned to Congress in 1990. Over the next 9 years, Laura expanded her sphere of influence as Legislative Director for the Congresswoman and as an active participant in organizations, especially those that advanced the cause of women and Asian Pacific Americans. She was a founding member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Staff Association (CAPASA) and was instrumental in the creation of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS). In 1999, Laura joined the Executive Office of the President, appointed by President Bill Clinton as a Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of Public Liaison. There, she advised the President and Senior White House staff on policy and political matters of concern to the Asian American and Pacific Islander Community. In 2002, Laura moved to San Francisco to join ZeroDivide, a not-for-profit foundation dedicated to achieving digital equality for vulnerable populations.

A Tribute to Laura Efurd, shared by Wendy Mink, daughter of Patsy Takemoto Mink

In September 1990, Laura’s path intersected with my mother’s, beginning a nearly thirty-year relationship with my family. I remember how thrilled my mother was that Laura approached her for a position in her newly forming office.  At the time, my mother had been away from Congress for fourteen years and was scrambling to boot up a congressional office after her special election late in the legislative year. Laura brought skills and savvy from having spent a couple of years working on the Hill for a member from Arkansas.  She also offered deep familiarity with the 2nd Congressional, having spent much of her life growing up in Mililani.

What my mother didn’t know on first encountering Laura was just how akamai, bold, and honest she was.  Laura never boasted her gifts, so my mother did not initially know that Laura was gentle, but also fierce;  kind, but also disciplined;  incisive, but also open-minded.

 

Within weeks of working together, my mother had developed profound respect for Laura in all her dimensions — her strength of character, her intelligence, her loving regard for people in need. And so Laura became a trusted advisor, legislative director, and friend.

 

In the Mink office, Laura balanced focus and seriousness-of-purpose with gracious humor and a big heart.  As a leader among staff, she knew how to encourage the best in co-workers.  As a policy-thinker, she knew how to strategize and design legislative innovation to move us toward justice. She was on a mission to make the world a better place;  in that, she was nothing less than heroic.

 

Over the past fifteen years, since my mother’s passing, I have had the pleasure of working with Laura on the Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation.  She was a founding trustee, helping to invent and deliver non-profit educational assistance to low-income single mothers.  This work complemented her work to close the digital divide, to empower Asian Pacific Americans, and to advance the cause of gender equity.  But it also imposed unique responsibilities and burdens — such as reading and winnowing thousands of applications from thousands of talented low-income women in search of opportunity. As a trustee, Laura did all the hard work with cheer, and brought enlightenment and wisdom to our deliberations. 

 

Determined, astute, reliable, generous, compassionate, trusted.  That’s how I will think of Laura, always.  It was an honor to be in her world.  I know that my mother and father felt blessed to know her; and indebted to the many roles she offered to their lives — aide, ally, friend.

 

We lost Laura way too soon.  But she left legacies for each of us to fulfill, as advocates or strategists or benefactors or congregants or friends.  We can shine a light on Laura’s life and memory every day by our words and deeds.  The world will be a better place if we do.                                                             

August 4, 2018

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©2018 BY PATSY TAKEMOTO MINK EDUCATION FOUNDATION.