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WALLINGFORD — Lisa Marie Erbe Flower was known for a number of things: her personality, how organized she was, and her cooking. But what her co-workers and the families she helped will remember most was her dedication.
“She was just a one-of-a-kind person,” said Department of Children and Families Foster Care and Adoption Services Director Ken Mysogland. “She will be truly missed. She was a true social worker and a true advocate.”
Flower died on Sunday after a long illness. She was 53.
Born in Torrington, Flower received her bachelor’s degree from Charter Oak Community College and her master’s degree from the University of Connecticut. In 1989, she started her career at DCF as a social worker.
Flower worked her way up from social worker to top positions in the agency. Her different roles included director of the training academy, director of the hotline and assistant superintendent of the Connecticut Juvenile Training School. She also ran the Interstate Compact Office, which protects “the best interests of children who are being placed outside of Connecticut and those children who are being placed in Connecticut in foster care, relative care, adoption, or a residential facility,” according to the DCF website.
As director of the training academy, Flower was in charge of teaching staff members.
“She was smart and had a tremendous presence in front of a group. She could really hold a class’ attention and get them to understand the most important aspects of protecting families,” Mysogland said. “It’s because of Lisa that a lot of longstanding trainings were directly related and helpful to our staff on a statewide basis.”
Because of her personality and creativity, she was able to help numerous individuals rehabilitate and “establish a future they never thought they could achieve.”
“At the core of Lisa’s personality was someone who was tremendously passionate — someone who could engage the most difficult of clients,” Mysogland said.
As the assistant superintendent of the juvenile training academy, Flower “could take the most hardened and closed youth and get them to open up and believe in themselves — that they could make a better future for themselves,” he said.
Because she was fluent in Spanish and took great pride in the culture, Mysogland said Flower spent a considerable amount of time and effort working with the Hispanic community. In addition to her work at DCF, Flower was co-host of Talking Seriously, a radio segment on La Puertorriquenisima. Every other week from 11 a.m. to noon, Flower would talk about the agency and how to be a good foster parent, said Felix Viera, her co-host. At times, she would also bring in various people from DCF to talk about their roles and duties.
“Lisa played a very important role for the program,” Viera said. “She is the one who coordinated all the guests. She is a lady that we will never forget.”
Flower was not just dedicated to her clients and the community she served — she also took the time to get to know her co-workers on a personal level, Mysogland wrote in a statement to the agency. In any conversation a person had with her, Flower was always sure to bring up her two children, Tyler and Shelby.
“If you knew Lisa, you experienced right along with her the first steps, birthdays, graduations, driver’s licenses, as well as other milestones of her children,” Mysogland wrote.
Flower is also survived by her parents and three siblings. She was predeceased by her husband, Bradley S. Flower.
Flower will be remembered by friends and family for the impact she made in the community and for her desire to help children and families in the state.
“She was a wonderful, dynamic, spirited, passion-filled employee,” Mysogland said, “who always wanted to do the best thing for kids.”