Sally Fox represented Chittenden County both as a fierce and dedicated member of the Vermont legislature and a passionate lobbyist in Montpelier for more than thirty years. She was beloved and admired by all who witnessed her relentless drive to help and protect those who struggled to make their voices heard.
In January 2014, she passed away from cancer, and on Friday, January 29, her memory was honored with the dedication of the Sally Fox Conference Center at the new State Office Complex in Waterbury. The center will house the Agency of Human Services—fitting, many noted, as the place where her work to assist the poor and disadvantaged will continue for years to come.
Fox’s husband, current Chittenden County Senator Michael Sirotkin, joined 400 others at the dedication, which featured moving speeches, fond memories of Fox, and the dedication of a painting by her favorite artist, Katharine Monstream. The conference center is in a new building at the state offices in Waterbury, which stands next to older facilities that were recently renovated after being severely damaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011.
Sirotkin noted that Fox’s main legacy is that of fighting for the people, and that he hopes this spirit will stay in the hearts of those who use that room. “When policies are decided in these conference rooms on the lives of Vermonters most in need, I hope the policy makers will be motivated by Sally’s lifetime of wisdom, courage and heart,” he said.
Sirotkin spoke at the room’s dedication, along with Department of Buildings and General Services Commissioner Michael Obuchowski and college student and artist Jeremy Lee McKenzie, a former addict and prisoner who credits Fox with saving his life. Sirotkin said that McKenzie’s words gave a deeper context to his wife’s legacy; she had developed a personal relationship with McKenzie and encouraged him to continue with his education and pursue what really mattered to him in life.
“What 400 people also learned was that Sally’s lifetime work also extended to one-on-one direct advocacy for Vermonters in need,” Sirotkin said. “Jeremy’s poignant story of how Sally’s crucial faith in him turned his life of addiction and prison to that of successful artist and film maker was so special.”
At the end of the dedication, Vermont artist Katharine Monstream unveiled a large, wildly colorful four-paneled series of paintings, titled “Panoramic Sky over Shelburne Bay.”
“This was her favorite view. It also shows the amazing transitions Sally went through in her lifetime,” Sirotkin said.