Florence Soltys, known in North Carolina and across the nation as a leading expert and fearless advocate for people as they aged, died Thursday of a heart attack. Before her retirement in June, Soltys had been clinical associate professor at UNC-CH’s School of Social Work, with additional appointments in the schools of medicine and nursing.

“If I wanted to single out somebody whose life manifested what we mean in this country by public service, I would cite Florence Soltys,” William Friday, president emeritus of the University of North Carolina, said Thursday. “There was never a time you needed her and she was not there. This community is much in her debt, as is the state of North Carolina.

“Last year, she received the fourth annual Ned Brooks Award for Public Service, which “recognizes a UNC faculty or staff member who has built a sustained record of community service through individual efforts and the involvement and guidance of others.

“No organization was too powerful for her to take on, including UNC Hospitals itself, said state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, a Carrboro Democrat. Soltys helped lead a protest of the hospital in 2006, challenging what she said were harsh payment policies. You may remember that AAUWNC members had a chance to sign onto to a petition she had helped draft that stated the UNC Hospitals were not fulfilling their mission to the citizens of NC.

AAUWNC was fortunate to have had Florence Soltys be the keynote speaker at our convention in Black Mountain, NC. She shared with us what we needed to be doing regarding aging issues in North Carolina. Dr. Helen Martikainen, a member of the Chapel Hill branch, was a very close friend of Florence Soltys. Helen affectionately called her “Professor”. AAUW and NC has lost a true leader and activist.