Eileen Marie Barclay, 52, of East Oak Lane, who counseled others while struggling with her own crippling disease, died of pneumonia Thursday, May 5, at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
Ms. Barclay had spinal muscular atrophy, a type of muscular dystrophy.
Her father, Joseph, made her special braces until she needed to use a wheelchair when she was 9. Her mother, Rosemary, was an activist for children with the disease, serving on the board of the Philadelphia chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association of America.
"She was raised to believe she could overcome any obstacle," said her sister, Bunny Schnell.
Ms. Barclay graduated from Upper Dublin High School. She earned an associate's degree in human services from Montgomery County Community College and a bachelor's degree in community health education from Temple University. She attended classes at the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation in Glenside.
For more than 15 years, as founder and director of Light Ministries in East Oak Lane, Ms. Barclay counseled families, battered wives, and unwed mothers. She also provided refuge in her home to needy women and children, and she and her partner, Wayne Chapman, adopted three foster children.
"She had indomitable spirit and strength," said Angelo Juliani, a longtime friend and pastor of Bridge Community Church in Elkins Park.
Because she was in a wheelchair, people perceived her as vulnerable and would open up to her, he said. After others failed, she was able to get help for people who had addictions and were abusive, Juliani said.
In addition to her sister and partner, Ms. Barclay is survived by a daughter, Kourtney Barclay-Chapman; sons Anthony and Dylan Barclay-Chapman; and three brothers.
A memorial celebration will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 10, at New Life Glenside Presbyterian Church, 467 N. Easton Rd., Glenside.
Donations for the Barclay-Chapman household may be made to Bridge Community Church, Box 29724, Elkins Park, Pa. 19027.