BOTHELL — Former state Rep. Jeanne Edwards began undergoing kidney dialysis in 1999, but it didn’t stop her from serving five years in the state Legislature.
And though she also had Alzheimer’s disease when she died Sunday at 82, Edwards was still showing her strong personality in her last d
ays, one of her daughters said.
“She was still spunky, still witty, still had that fiery personality, could tell us how she was feeling,” said Colleen Edwards, 48, of Seattle.
Strength tempered with mercy was Edwards’ trademark, said state Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, a friend and colleague.
“She was kind but she was determined,” McAuliffe said. “When she needed to get something done, she didn’t back away from it.”
Edwards died from complications related to her kidney condition, her daughter said.
Edwards served as a Democrat in the Legislature from 1999 to 2004. Earlier, she worked as a print journalist, including seven years as features editor for The Herald. She also worked in health care and on local government boards and commissions.
“She did so much for her community,” McAuliffe said.
Edwards was first elected to the Legislature in 1998, representing the 1st District, which covers Bothell, Kenmore, Mountlake Terrace and Brier.
Snohomish County Sheriff John Lovick won election the same year as a representative from Mill Creek.
After daily legislative sessions in Olympia, “at 5:30 we’d pop in a car, mine or hers, and I’d take her to dialysis in Kirkland,” Lovick said.
He’d wait for Edwards to finish her appointment, take her home, go home, then pick her up in the morning and drive back to Olympia.
“We were commute partners for the first five years or so,” Lovick said. “She was like a mother to me, we talked about everything. She was just the greatest lady I ever served with, she was just wonderful.”
Mike Cooper, now mayor of Edmonds, was elected to the House in 1996 and served with Edwards on the House transportation committee.
“I was always amazed at how hard she worked even with her health problems,” Cooper said.
Edwards’ best known accomplishment in the Legislature was sponsoring a successful measure to provide health insurance for children from low-income families, Lovick said. The program is now called Apple Health for Kids.
“Her commitment to children’s heath care, that’s kind of her legacy, I believe,” he said.
Edwards told The Herald in 2004 that the possibility of creating such a program motivated her to run for state office.
“When I was up in Everett I tried so many times to get better health care for children in Snohomish County so I decided I’d go to the Legislature to try and get better health care for children across the state,” Edwards said. “Passing the bill was a great thrill.”
Edwards worked in public relations for Everett General Hospital (now Providence Regional Medical Center Everett) from 1983 to 1993, according to a biography supplied by her daughter. She then served as executive director of the Community Health Center of Snohomish County from 1994 to 1999.
Also in the ’90s, she served seven years on the Bothell City Council, four years on the board of directors for Community Transit and for a time on the board of the Snohomish Health District.
“She was fascinated by politics,” said former Herald writer Linda Bryant-Smith, who worked for Edwards at the paper in the 1970s and early ’80s.
“She was fun to work for, she was energetic, creative and she was very ambitious,” Bryant-Smith said. “She wanted the best writing in the newspaper to be on the pages she edited.”
Byrant-Smith credits Edwards for transforming The Herald’s features section, called “Today’s Living,” from a women’s society section to one dedicated to serious journalism.
“Jeanne’s mentoring encouraged us to write strong, in-depth pieces about people and the issues that were affecting their lives,” Bryant-Smith said.
Earlier, as a writer for The Herald, Edwards landed an assignment covering Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson on his campaign for president in 1976. She covered Jimmy Carter as well, who went on to win the presidency that year.
Born into an Irish Catholic family in Leadville, Colo., Jeanne Laushine married Bill Edwards on her 18th birthday, and the couple moved to the Seattle area in 1950.
Edwards worked for the Northshore Citizen weekly newspaper in Bothell in the 1960s, said John Hughes, her publisher at the time.
“She had a lot of spunk, a lot of heart and a lot of spirit,” he said. “She had the ability to persuade her colleagues at the government level, and that was a unique quality she brought to the table.”
Edwards raised three daughters and a son, and is survived by them as well as five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
“Jeanne kind of led with her heart,” McAuliffe said. “She cared about her family, her community and the people she represented.”
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
A memorial for Jeanne Edwards is planned for 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Brendan Catholic Church, 10051 NE 195th St., Bothell. The service is open to the public.