The memorial service today for former U.S. Rep. Jennifer Dunn, attended by hundreds of friends, family, former aides, lobbyists and lawmakers...
The memorial service today for former U.S. Rep. Jennifer Dunn, attended by hundreds of friends, family, former aides, lobbyists and lawmakers current and former, was both a goodbye and a tribute.
It was also a testament to a unique politician who, even in death, was able to unite the most powerful people in Washington state, regardless of party.
For a brief moment, red and blue didn’t matter. The color of the event, expressed by the many bouquets that lined St. James Cathedral, was Dunn’s favorite: peach.
Dunn, chairwoman of the state Republican Party, represented the 8th Congressional District from 1993 to 2004. She died last week at her Alexandria, Va., home from a blood clot in her lung. She was 66.
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The seven pallbearers who carried Dunn’s casket into St. James Cathedral included U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, one of the most powerful Democrats in the state, and former Republican Sen. Slade Gorton, known for his conservative populism.
The tributes, too, offered a varied portrait of a woman who raised two boys as a single mother after her divorce in 1977, espoused a brand of right-centered politics that easily carried her through six elections, and found love later in life.
U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, said he had known Dunn for three decades, when she could aptly be called a “renegade.”
Both Hastings and Dunn were early supporters of Ronald Reagan, and supported his candidacy in 1975 when the party establishment had coalesced behind President Ford.
Dunn was particularly good at campaigning and had a zeal for fundraising, Hastings said. “Maybe I should say passion for fundraising. And that’s probably an understatement.”
She also was a good person to sit next to during the president’s annual State of the Union address to Congress, Hastings said.
She always made a point of wearing bright yellow or pink that evening, he said. “In a sea of blue suits, the camera always picked up Jennifer.”
Hastings was followed by William Ruckelshaus, former Environmental Protection Agency chief and current chair of the Puget Sound Partnership, a group convened by Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire to restore Puget Sound.
Ruckelshaus told a story about traveling to Capitol Hill to lobby for salmon-recovery money.
He and Dunn made annual pilgrimages to visit Republican Rep. Frank Wolf, a Virginian who sat on an important committee.
Ruckelshaus made his pitch for federal help, and “when I completely ran out of gas, he’d say, ‘Is this important to you, Jennifer?’ And she fixed a smile and always said the same thing: ‘Very.’ And he’d say, ‘Then we must fund it.’ “
Dunn’s two sons, Bryant and Reagan, said their mother, while embarking on a political career, always made them feel special.
“Her love was pure, it was perfect, and it was permanent,” Bryant Dunn said.
Reagan Dunn, who serves on the Metropolitan King County Council, said his mother was “a shining example of what single mothers could accomplish.”
One weakness, however, was Dunn’s cooking. Reagan Dunn said his mother last prepared a homemade meal 25 years ago. It was breaded trout, served complete with head, eyeballs and tail.
“Mom wouldn’t have wanted any of you to be sad,” Reagan Dunn said. “She would have wanted you to, in her words, ‘Get over it.’ “
After a prayer, the mourners sang “America the Beautiful,” and then those who came to pay their final respects filed out.
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, said Dunn was a role model and mentor, helping her connect with other women in Congress when she launched her first congressional campaign in 2004.
“She certainly encouraged us as women to get involved, that as a Republican woman, there were lots of opportunities,” McMorris Rodgers said.
Outside St. James, under clear blue skies, the crowd watched as an American flag on the coffin was presented to Dunn’s husband, Keith Thomson, whom she married in 2003.
The same flag had been flying over the U.S. Capitol the day Dunn died.
Alex Fryer: 206-464-8124 or email@example.com