As many of you know, our beloved founder, Trish Vradenburg passed away yesterday. Our hearts are broken. In my grief, I wanted to reflect on her life and what she meant to me and to our community. There are simply no words to fully express my grief and the deep sense of empathy I feel for her husband, best friend, lover and soul mate George Vradenburg. Trish was a rare breed, the perfect combination of consummate lady and inveterate ball buster – she was smart, loving, devoted and most of all, hilarious. She could take even the most serious subject and burst the bubble of tension in any room with a perfectly timed joke, usually no more than a few words. She was understated but her presence was enormous – a two-step only the most amazing of people can accomplish.
Trish clearly took a lot of her inspiration in life from her mother, and her mother’s final gift to Trish was the life’s passion she would undertake until the end. It was a gift that even Trish would say in her most honest moments – thanks mom, but no thanks, can’t you give me something else! Trish talked often about her mother – she talked proudly of her role in democratic politics and her unwillingness to take no for an answer. She was clearly fiercely loyal to her mother and even wrote a play, not letting the “bimbo” her father dated while her mother was sick with Alzheimer’s have the last word. What I hope that Trish saw was that she created, through her authenticity and devotion to family and the causes she cared about, the same loyalty in her kids and kids-in-law and in everyone who came into contact with her. When George and Trish moved to DC for him to take a new job, I think Trish saw the move as temporary, and that her real home LA awaited their return. Nonetheless, Trish entered DC with the same gusto she does everything else, creating an enormous network of friends and admirers and rising to the top of the circle of generosity, making life better for those in DC and beyond. No wonder, she was always the belle of the ball!
For those of us just behind Trish in the fight for women’s equality, Trish was an example every day. She was an independent, career-minded woman who was able also to put family first and was not afraid that “standing by her man” would compromise her commitment to feminism and equality. It is too often the case that women feel the need to choose one or the other. Trish’s courage and independence was an example to me every day of how to literally have it all!
And, then there was Trish’s tenacity – and boy was she tenacious. The most incredible thing to watch though was how her tenacity was cloaked in her infectious smile, beautiful clothes, brilliant conversation and humor. Trish was famous for refusing to leave a member of Congress’ or a Senator’s office before she got what she wanted. She worked a room like no other – recently racking up 20 Senators in a weekend to join her Alzheimer’s Party – a place where she felt strongly we all could and should come together. The best thing though was seeing Trish recount these successes – she took such pleasure in making people see just how important this cause is and would stop at nothing to make others see the light!
I know I am not the only one who will miss Trish today and every day. I do know that my work advancing the cause of women, curing Alzheimer’s and fighting for what is right just got a lot of new energy – and I will feel it each and every day.