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Lois Pilot; O.C. Advocate for Rights of Autistic Kids

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Lois Pilot, the Orange County woman whose autistic child inspired her to become an advocate for the rights of children with that disease, has died of complications from breast cancer.

Pilot, of San Clemente, was 37.

“She was great,” her husband, Kevin, said Wednesday. “She was the kind of person who, whenever she met somebody, they would always remember her. She was a very caring person, very loving, always doing things for other people.”

Born in Cinaminson, N.J., Pilot grew up in the Love Canal, N.Y., area, near Niagara Falls, in the 1970s, when the area made worldwide headlines as a site of toxic dumping and pollution. After his wife was diagnosed with cancer in 1997, Kevin Pilot said, “we often talked about whether there was a connection. She was so young, and there was no history of cancer in her family, but we’ve never really had a way of connecting it.”

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After leaving Love Canal, Pilot came to California in 1982 to attend Biola University in La Mirada, where she studied business. She met her husband there the next year, and they were married in 1986.

After their first son, Dylan, was diagnosed with autism in 1994, Lois Pilot became an activist and was instrumental in the founding and early organization of the Autism Coalition for Creative Educational Social Services, an Irvine-based group that, among other things, pushed successfully for a pilot program for autistic children at Aliso Viejo’s Foxborough Elementary School.

Her own child was among the first students at the Pyramid Autism Center in Huntington Beach, a one-of-a-kind school that opened last year and where Pilot worked as a volunteer. Besides raising money for various causes related to autism, she was active in Cure Autism Now, a national advocacy group.

“She was a leader in Orange County in trying to get innovative therapy for children,” said James Mulvaney, a member of the national group who used to live in Orange County. “Her house was filled on the weekend with volunteers training people to better help children focus. She had this bubbly enthusiasm, even though she was dealing with a very difficult situation with her son.”

In fact, Kevin Pilot said, it was as a parent that his wife shone the most. “If ‘mom’ is in the dictionary,” he said, “there should be a picture of her in there. She was perfect, a terrific mom.”

In recent years, her cancer seemed to have all but disappeared. “We thought she was in remission,” Kevin Pilot said, “but there was a sudden turn of events, and it moved to her brain.”

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Over the weekend, Lois Pilot was taken to Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo, where she died Monday. “There was nothing that could be done,” Kevin Pilot said.

In addition to her husband, Lois Pilot is survived by her two sons: Dylan, 8, and Kurt, 6.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. today at Pacific Coast Church, 2651 Calle Frontera, San Clemente. Kevin Pilot asked that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to a trust fund set up for the couple’s autistic son.

The address is: c/o Stacey Kochanowski, PMB 455, 18685-A Main St., Huntington Beach, CA 92648.

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