Friends, family and colleagues memorialized longtime North Coast political leader Pat Wiggins as a fierce advocate, loyal ally and tireless worker, a politician who led with as much kindness as courage.
Wiggins died after a long illness on Aug. 15 at an assisted living facility in Forestville. She was 73.
About 250 people attended a celebration of her life Sunday at the Congregation Beth Ami Friedman Center in Santa Rosa, capped by a sing-along of John Lennon's song "Imagine" as joy-filled images of a smiling Wiggins and her friends played on a large video screen.
"The side of her that you saw &#8211; the compassion, the magnetic smile, the warmth, the understanding, the eminent likability of Pat &#8211; was all genuine," said her stepson, Steve Silverman, of Scottsdale, Ariz. "That was who Pat was at her core."
A Pasadena native, Wiggins moved to Santa Rosa in 1984. Soon after, she and her husband of 30 years, Guy Conner, helped organize Concerned Citizens for Santa Rosa, which argued for stricter scrutiny of growth in Sonoma County's largest city.
A former computer systems analyst, she entered public office in the mid-1990s and became a leader of the local Democratic Party's liberal faction. In all, she served 14 years in office: four on the Santa Rosa City Council, six in the state Assembly, and four as a state senator representing the 2nd District, which stretched from Solano County to Humboldt County.
Though she became nearly deaf, she dealt with it matter-of-factly and inspired others with challenges, friends said.
Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane said Sunday that Wiggins was an unabashed liberal feminist, who worked on efforts to prevent domestic violence and to pass legislation like Safe Routes to School.
"There was no more fierce advocate and supporter of women than Pat Wiggins," said Lynn Woolsey, the retired Democratic Congresswoman from Petaluma.
North Coast Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, recalled Wiggins' "devilish sense of humor, wicked smile and (the) glow in her eyes."