News of the death of Megan Palmer, 40, was met with disbelief as it rocketed through the community. Livingston County’s substance abuse prevention coordinator died on Saturday, Jan. 8, just a month after she was diagnosed with an aggressive tumor on her liver in early December.
After the diagnosis, “we were full of hope and looking forward,” her mother said. On Dec. 14, she went with Megan to her home in Ann Arbor. “She wanted to clean out her fridge, get her mail, stop her mail, take a couple of Zoom meetings, and renew her library card.”
Megan started chemotherapy in late December, but the cancer was too advanced, and she died under hospice care on Saturday, Jan. 8, at the home of her parents in Midland, “surrounded by the love of the family and friends that came around.”
She is being remembered for the community building she did throughout her life, as well as for being a force for both good and fun.
“The common theme of helping people flows through my professional career,” Megan once wrote. “I am working to build stronger and healthier families, neighborhoods, and communities.”
Megan was a popular staffer at Livingston County Catholic Charities, where my husband, Michael Stuart, also worked. While they both earned their undergraduate degrees at Western Michigan University, they became fast friends over their shared love of old television shows, food and margaritas.
She graduated from WMU in 2003, earning her bachelor’s degree in social work. While there, she volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, Campus Compact, United Campus Ministries, and the Progressive Student Alliance. She also swam with the Bronco Swim Club.
Megan went on to earn her master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan in 2006; one of her internships was with Food Gatherers, where she worked to “help families be well-fed.”
She then explored her love of food and cooking, and went back to school to earn her associate’s degree from the New England Culinary Institute in 2009. While there, she worked with the Vermont Agency on Agriculture and Slow Food NECI, and interned with The Kitchen in Boulder, Colo., and The Vermont Agency on Agriculture. She also created a six-month rotating menu for a juvenile rehabilitation center using locally sourced food.
Her first stint in Livingston County was as a case manager at The Connection Youth Services, where she “served as a liaison between youth who face homelessness, and their homes, schools, and doctors, and other community resources such as family service agencies.”
She left The Connection to become the coordinator of the Drug Free Communities Project in Barry County. There she organized trainings for the county’s substance abuse task force, taught classes, coordinated work group meetings, managed projects, and represented the project at local governmental meetings.
In 2017, she returned to Livingston County to join the staff at Livingston County Catholic Charities as its substance abuse prevention coordinator.
“I first met Megan when she worked at The Connection,” said Mark Robinson, executive director of Livingston County Catholic Charities. “She went to Barry County for a job that really provided her with a new professional challenge. I was thrilled when she returned to Livingston County and joined the substance abuse prevention team here at LCCC.”
Robinson said she quickly became a well-liked and well-respected coworker, and when she became the program director, she excelled in the role, leading local efforts to transition when Covid hit.
“Megan’s energy and creativity kept the substance abuse prevention efforts moving forward at a difficult time,” he said. “I will very much miss Megan’s passion for her work, and to the other values that she had to make her corner of the world a more just place for everyone.
“Megan was a gift to us at Livingston County Catholic Charities, the Livingston County Community Alliance, and to our community.”
Megan also worked with the Big Red Barrel drug take-back disposal program, and was a member of the Livingston Diversity Council.
No funeral arrangements have been announced as of yet.
A video was put together by Livingston County Catholic Charities.