Remembering State Sen. Sally Fox

By Steph Machado

Published 01/10 2014 05:38PM

Updated 01/10 2014 06:56PM

MONTPELIER - It was a somber end to the first week of the Vermont legislative session as state leaders learned of Sen. Sally Fox's passing early Friday morning.

She battled cancer for over a year.

"Sally was critical to us in the Senate," said State Sen. Ginny Lyons (D-Chittenden), Fox's co-committee member in Senate Health and Welfare as well as a fellow senator from Chittenden County. "She was our brain trust on so many important issues."

Before serving as a senator, Fox represented Essex in the House of Representatives. Though she was battling cancer last session, she continued to work for her constituents.

"As a result of some surgery, her voice wasn't as loud as it could be," said Sen. Lyons. "So she was one of those folks who 'spoke softly but carried a big stick,'" Lyons said.

After a prayer in her honor on the floor, the Senate adjourned Friday, moving everything on the agenda to next week. Many committees canceled their meetings; others met with Senator Fox in mind.

"She was a huge champion for people who were marginally housed, people who were living in poverty," said State Rep. Kesha Ram (D-Chittenden). "So I was very much thinking about her today when I had the chance to introduce this bill."

Sen. Claire Ayer (D-Addison) is the Chair of the Health and Welfare committee on which Fox was Vice-Chair. Ayer placed a table outside the committee room with flowers and a place for people to write messages for Fox's family.

Fox also chaired the Mental Health Oversight Committee, championing the development of Vermont's Community Mental Health System.

"She has left us a legacy that should carry us forward for the mental health system in the state of Vermont," Sen. Lyons said.

Governor Shumlin, who once sat with Fox on the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement: "She was a relentless champion for kids and vulnerable Vermonters. Those who often lack a voice always had an advocate with Sally in the State House."

Senate President Pro-Tem John Campbell also spoke to Senator Fox's accomplishments. "She fought tirelessly to ensure all Vermonters have access to quality healthcare."

A resolution in her honor will be read on the senate floor next week. Funeral services will be held at Temple Sinai in South Burlington on Sunday. Governor Shumlin has ordered all Vermont state and federal flags to be lowered to half staff beginning Sunday.

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