Sen. Sally Fox, advocate for the poor, dies

By Anne Galloway
VTDigger.org

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Sen. Sally Fox, D-Chittenden, died in the early morning hours Friday surrounded by her family. She had struggled with lung cancer for two years.

An audible gasp went up from lawmakers when House Speaker Shap Smith made the announcement in the House Chamber on Friday morning. Several senators wandered around in the downstairs lobby, crying and hugging one another, unable to talk about their colleague and friend right away. Lawmakers went back to work, but the mood at the Statehouse was subdued.

Fox, 62, was in her second term in the state Senate where she served on Senate Health and Welfare and Senate Appropriations committees. She was previously elected to the House of Representatives in 1986 and served seven terms. She served as chair of the House Appropriations Committee and House Judiciary Committee. Fox was a lawyer and held a J.D. from the State University of New York Law School. She ran the Developmental Disabilities Law Project for Vermont Legal Aid for 11 years from 1977 to 1988 where she defended the rights of Vermonters.

“The Senate has lost one of the most courageous and passionate members it has ever had,” Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell said. “One thing about Sally was she was always fighting for those who couldn’t fight for themselves, and she should be an inspiration for all.”

Gov. Peter Shumlin served with Fox when he was first appointed to the House. “Sally Fox was a relentless champion for kids and vulnerable Vermonters,” Shumlin said in a statement. “Those who often lack a voice always had an advocate with Sally in the State House.

“Sally took me under her wing and taught me a great deal about how to effectively serve Vermonters in the State House. She was a great friend, and I will miss her tremendously.”

Shumlin also ordered that flags on state and federal buildings be lowered to half-staff from Sunday through Tuesday in Fox’s honor.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who knew Fox as a lawyer and legislator, said she “worked diligently to improve the lives of the poor, the sick, and the disabled. She will be greatly missed and I know her spirit will live on in the Legislature and throughout Vermont.”

She is survived by her husband, Michael Sirotkin, and two sons.

A service will be held at Temple Sinai, 500 Swift St., South Burlington, 1 p.m. Sunday.