Transcript Staff

The late Kay Absher has been honored with the Cleveland County Bar Association's Alan J. Couch award, for her work as a children's advocate.

"Kay Absher exemplified what Judge Couch valued -- a person who saw a need for the children of Cleveland County and found a way to fill that need," said Awards Committee Chair Sandee Coogan.

The annual award, now in its third year, recognizes individuals or groups who, like Couch, championed the cause and rights of Cleveland County's children.

Absher, executive director of the Norman Housing Authority until her death in 2006, was instrumental in organizing Independent Living Services for Youth, a nonprofit agency that assists students who live alone due to family crisis. It was Absher who spearheaded the drive to acquire and renovate the former Kingsgate Apartments for single-person unit residency by 20 homeless high school students. Absher, in 2005, also worked with the three Norman Rotary clubs and the Norman Affordable Housing Corporation to fund a student center for the complex. The center offers students a living area, kitchen, computer lab, laundry, storage space and offices, and allows them a place to relax in a comfortable atmosphere.

Accepting the award at the Bar Association's January meeting were Absher's husband Eugene and daughter Shelly. The award carried with it a cash donation to ILSY and a permanent plaque which will hang in the Alan. J. Couch area of the remodeled Cleveland County Courthouse.

Couch, an associate district judge from 1972 until his death in 2003, advocated for youth in numerous ways, including through his work as chair of the original Oklahoma Supreme Court Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee. He also taught and designed youth-protection programs for judges, attorneys and court workers across the United States, and founded Oklahoma's first Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program, which trains volunteers to speak up for neglected children in court. Past winners of the Alan J. Couch award include Sandra Wellman, clinical director of Bethesda, Inc., and two organizations that shared the award in 2005, CASA and the Norman Youth Foundation.

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