4/24/20 - A Message from Secretary Hou: A Very Special Employee Bright Spot

Friday, April 24, 2020

Good afternoon, IDHS Staff:

I had the wonderful opportunity to talk with our team member, Torrence, a unit director at the Elisabeth Ludeman Center, to learn more about his fiancé, Michelle Abernathy, who was also a unit director at Ludeman. Michelle passed away last week due to COVID-19. All of us at IDHS are very saddened by Michelle's passing and are keeping Torrence and Michelle's family and friends in our thoughts and prayers.

Today's Bright Spot: Michelle Abernathy (Acting Unit Director - Ludeman Developmental Center)

Michelle began her journey at IDHS in 2019 after a transition from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) where she had served as a Child Protection Investigator.

Most recently, as Acting Unit Director at Ludeman, Michelle was responsible for leading Unit One and ensuring that residents received quality care and support. Michelle had a big heart and a nurturing personality, and was known for returning to the facility to support employees and residents during the night, using her own resources to purchase games and entertainment for residents, and for the overall joy that she brought to people around her.

Upon Michelle's arrival at Ludeman, she met Torrence and immediately found a spark of shared interest and passion for their work. Torrence loved Michelle's great sense of empathy and dedication to her work, and he knew she was destined for leadership roles, which was soon confirmed with her promotions.

Her enthusiasm and ability to impact those around her will be remembered and missed, especially by her colleagues and the residents at the Ludeman Center.

Memorable Facts about Michelle:

  • Michelle and Torrence were due to be "officially" engaged in September 2020.
  • Michelle was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
  • Michelle would have celebrated her birthday on July 27th.

Please remember there are resources and services available through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and Personal Support Program (PSP) if you need someone to talk to during these times.

We are in this together, and I offer my support if you need me.

With sincerity,


Grace B. Hou

Secretary, IDHS