Lora Ulrich believed that people with disabilities should be able to enjoy the same outdoor activities as everybody else, and to that end she spent her free time making sure they could.

Ulrich, who had a passion for downhill skiing, spent many hours on the slopes of Burnsville's Buck Hill teaching those who lived at the group home managed by her twin sister, Lona, how to ski.

Her heart for the disabled also led her to volunteer for many years as a timer at track and field events put on by Minnesota Special Olympics. "She loved doing that; it was important to her," said Ulrich's mother, Gertrude, of Richfield.

Ulrich died April 10 when she choked on a chicken bone in her Burnsville townhouse. She was 49.

She was born in Minneapolis and graduated in 1978 from Richfield High School, where she ran track. She earned a bachelor's degree from the Institute of Technology at the University of Minnesota, following in the footsteps of her older brothers and entering a career in engineering. She was a pioneer in a field that had few women at the time and wished that more girls would study engineering, her mother said.

While at Control Data, she worked on projects to make disk drives faster, smaller and lighter. One of her proudest accomplishments was being on a team that created carts used in hospitals that have compartments to store trays of hot and cold food. She also designed controls used on water heaters to make them more energy-efficient and worked on projects for the military, her mother said. Coworkers said she was known for her smiles, warm greetings and kindness.

Off the clock, Ulrich was active in politics. From a early age she delivered fliers for Democratic Party candidates, and over the years she was involved in several campaigns. In 2008, she served as a delegate at the DFL State Convention.

"That was quite a thrill for her," her mother said.

Ulrich liked to travel. In recent years, she had visited Japan, China, Thailand and South America. She also liked to cook. Her kitchen was stocked with rows of exotic spices from the Far East. Every Mother's Day, she spent hours creating a lavish spread for the family, her mother said.

In addition to her mother, Ulrich is survived by three brothers Franz and Fred, both of Minneapolis, and Ted of St. Paul; two sisters, Margaret of St. Paul and Lona of Saudi Arabia, and several nieces and nephews.

Services have been held.