Stacy L. Allen, an attorney who took on disability cases after her own diagnosis with lupus, died of that disease Sunday at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center. The Bel Air resident was 46.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Pikesville, she was a member of the Class of 1978 at Pikesville High School. After receiving a scholarship from Baltimore Hebrew Congregation for a summer internship in Israel, she developed an interest in the Middle East and international relations.
She later returned to Israel for a work-study program and lived in an underground shelter during an outbreak of hostilities with Lebanese-based forces.
She earned a political science degree from Goucher College. Two months after entering the University of Maryland School of Law, she was diagnosed with lupus, a disease that affects the joints and tendons. After graduation, she joined the Maryland Bar and worked briefly for a Washington law firm before becoming in-house counsel for a number of businesses, including the old Merry-Go-Round chain.
"Her own innovative fashion sense was a good match," said her mother, Ellie Allen, an artist and a former teacher at the Essex campus of Baltimore County Community College.
As her disease worsened, Ms. Allen established a solo practice that permitted a flexible working schedule. In addition to general law, she did conflict resolution and soon found herself drawn to the cases of people with disabilities.
"She had a great compassion for the underdog," her mother said yesterday. "Inequity made her crazy."
Anton Keating, a lawyer and colleague, described Ms. Allen as "indomitable."
He said that she "had a tough, prickly exterior, but there was a soft, understanding inside beneath it. She was tremendously bright."
He recalled his first meeting with her at a legal conference years ago. Ms. Allen had dyed her hair purple.
"I told her I thought she would take some guff in the legal profession," Mr. Keating said. "She replied, `I think there is room for lawyers with purple hair.' "
In the past 20 years Ms. Allen underwent about 30 surgeries and eventually lost a leg. She became aware of environments that were unfriendly to wheelchair users and that lacked accessible parking spaces.
"She was stubborn, feisty and outspoken; she was always ready to stand up for those who could not do that for themselves," her mother said.
Ron Lewis, who became engaged to her seven years ago, recalled that she once saw a driver without handicapped tags pull into a handicapped space.
"She got out of her car and waved her prosthetic device at him," he said.
Services were held Thursday in Pikesville.
In addition to her mother and fiance, survivors include her sister, Dr. Robin D. Allen of Silver Spring. Her father, David Allen, died in 2003.