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Sydney Jacobs

February 27, 1954 ~ July 12, 2022 (age 68)


Tuesday, 12 July 2022, Sydney Jacobs passed peacefully. Her husband, Mark Otto, and sister Madi were at her side.

Syd was born on 27 February 1954 to Robert and Sonia Jacobs in Denver, Colorado, and grew up in Boulder. With two older brothers and two younger sisters, Syd lived a life filled with activity and activism. In 1974 Syd was in a mountaineering accident that left her with a spinal injury. This didn’t slow Syd down. She simply shifted her focus from skiing to kayaking, gave up climbing to swimming, and added disability rights to her already-long list of interests. Following her accident, Syd finished her degree in Journalism at the University of Washington and used her natural teaching skills to share her knowledge and love of nature with both children and adults.

Throughout her life, Syd was a top-tier athlete. Before her accident, she was the Israeli national ski champion, a competition she joined by chance. After her accident, Syd swam internationally, winning medals at the Pan American Games in Mexico City in 1975, the Stoke Mandeville Paraplegic Games in England in 1977, and the 1978 Pan- American Wheelchair Games in Brazil. She set an official national record in the butterfly at the 1976 Paralympics in Toronto, and she won silver and bronze swimming medals at the 1980 Paralympics in Arnhem, Netherlands. In 1981 she held three national swimming records, and in the 1980s she competed on the National Wheelchair Tennis circuit. She also brought her disability-rights activism to the sports she loved, testing sit skis and other adaptive equipment, and she cycled avidly with a Freedom tricycle.

Syd moved to Washington, DC in 1985 for graduate school in museum education. It was there that she met her husband, Mark, and where she and Mark raised their two children, Quilla and Kory Otto-Jacobs.

The February before last, Syd moved to her dream home in Southern Colorado. Designed specifically to fit her needs, the house also allowed her to live near her sister. She loved living in Colorado, where she took an active role in the community while also keeping up with friends around the country and the world.

Syd touched countless lives, and her work and activism have been felt by numerous communities around the globe. She was involved with Latin American adoption, the disabled community, homeschooling, environmental education, conservation, and health-care reform. Throughout her life, Syd was a park ranger, a freelance writer, a nature-center manager, an accessibility coordinator at the Smithsonian, and an English-as-a-second-language teacher. When adopting their daughter in Bolivia, she and Mark volunteered at the Darwin Research Station in the Galapagos, and her travels took her to South America, Australia, and Europe.

Syd is survived by her husband, Mark Otto; her daughter, Quilla Otto Jacobs; her son, Kory Otto-Jacobs; and her sisters, Madeleine and Hilary Jacobs. Celebrations of her life will be held at her home in Florence, Colorado, and Washington, DC.

To contribute to Syd’s memory: The National Wildlife Federation is a national that works across and for many groups in practical ways saving species and habitats, reducing waste, and creating a sustainable environment. Syd was a journalist. Public Radio gives us the information with an open perspective on the issues that Syd cared about. Without that, we can’t have those respectful discussions.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Sydney Jacobs, please visit our floral store.

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