I wanted to take a moment to remember someone that Tucson recently lost. Claudia Ellquist was one of those people whose names don’t always make headlines, but they have a tremendous impact in the community. She passed away earlier this month after a short illness.
Her father was a military man and veteran of the attack on Pearl Harbor. This meant Claudia lived in numerous places around the world when she was growing up. The family eventually settled in Tucson, where she attended the University of Arizona. After a brief interruption of her formal education for missionary work, she graduated with a law degree.
Her legal practice consisted of work on behalf of domestic violence victims, the mentally ill and asylum seekers. During that time, she also organized chapters of the National Organization for Women in Arizona and eventually served on their national board of directors.
She was a member of the Green Party, and ran under its banner for County Attorney in 1996. She did not win, but she made a great deal of political impact through her other work organizing petition drives.
When we had a county assessor that was accused of a number of things (including domestic violence), Claudia organized the recall drive. Inspired by the story of a breast cancer survivor, she was instrumental in getting the Healthy Arizona initiative on the ballot and passed by the voters. When the legislature messed with what the voters passed, she came back and got another initiative, Healthy Arizona II, passed.
What was important about those two initiatives, in addition to making Medicaid available to Arizonans, was they were genuine grass roots efforts: 76% of the money came from low-dollar donations. Making sure those campaigns were about Arizona citizens rather than big donors was important to her, and a large part of their success.
After she saw the legislative meddling in Healthy Arizona, Claudia worked with my father on pushing the Voter Protection Act. That initiative strengthened Arizona’s already firm guarantees that the people have the right to pass their own laws. It was passed overwhelmingly by the voters in 1998.
Claudia’s impact on Tucson and our state was tremendous and she will be missed. My sincere condolences go out to her husband and my friend John Yoakum.
Our state also lost former congressman Ed Pastor this week. Despite his high office, Ed was a model of quiet, humble service to his constituents. He represented Tucson for the first dozen years of his congressional career and helped the city out with several projects, including the improvements to downtown’s Amtrak station, where there is a plaque to honor him.
My condolences to his daughters Laura, Eleanor and Yvonne, his wife Verma and the hundreds of friends he gathered in a lifetime of service to Arizona.
It’s still a couple of weekends away, but remember that the Parade of Lights is coming up on December 15th.
The Parade of Lights & Festival is Downtown Tucson’s premier holiday event that brings together the entirety of the local community from all walks of life to celebrate not just the spirit of the Winter season, but also the unique culture of the Tucson community. In a grand scale procession throughout an illuminated and decorated downtown, attendees can expect to see a cavalcade of colorful floats, Baile Folklorico dancers adorned with brilliant lights, marching mariachis, and even parading pups.
A festival will happen at Jácome Plaza (Stone and Pennington) at 3 pm with the parade starting at 6:30. For more information, visit downtowntucsonholidays.org.