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Domestic-violence victims advocate dies

October 8, 2009

An attorney known for devoting time to work with domestic-violence victims and nonprofit organizations has died.

Deborah K. Hepler, 56, Carmel, died Oct. 5. She had suffered from breast cancer.

Hepler, born Nov. 8, 1952, in Mishawaka, is perhaps best known for founding the Protective Order Pro Bono Project of Greater Indianapolis in 2000. The program, now a part of the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, is still going strong with advocates in Marion County Court and regular trainings. Hepler remained active with the project and at a training session in May, she discussed ethical issues for pro bono attorneys.

She graduated from Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis in 1994 and served as a clerk for U.S. District Judge Larry J. McKinney in the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division.

She also worked for Locke Reynolds in Indianapolis and had taught as an adjunct law professor at the Indianapolis law school. At the time of her death, she was general counsel for the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

She was a member of the boards for the Indiana Coalition against Domestic Violence, Indiana Legal Services Inc., and the Domestic Violence Network of Greater Indianapolis. She was also on the board of the Carmel Community Players.

In recognition of her efforts in the fight against domestic violence, she received the 2005 Alumna of the Year from the Indiana University School of Law Alumni Network, the 2005 Chancellor's Community Award for Excellence in Civil Engagement, and the 2001 Prelude to Light Award by the Domestic Violence Network of Greater Indianapolis.

Hepler recently celebrated 37 years of marriage to her husband, Jay Hepler, who survives. Other survivors include children, Eric and Anne Hepler.

A celebration of her life will be at the Northside Knights of Columbus, 2100 E. 71st St., Indianapolis, Oct. 11 at 3:30 p.m. Judge McKinney, along with family and friends, will share their memories about Hepler.

ILS Board president Paul A. Leonard Jr. said in a statement that Hepler's daughter has requested people wear purple or red - Hepler's favorite colors.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to the Protective Order Pro Bono Project of Greater Indianapolis through the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, at (317) 917-3685.

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