Cancer claims former Rep. Mary Skinner

Lawmakers mourn loss of former 14th District state representative


Surrounded by her family, former Rep. Mary Skinner died this morning at 6:25 a.m. at her home in Yakima after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was 63.

Skinner was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1994. She served for seven terms, including the last two as vice chair of the House Republican Caucus, but announced last May she would not seek re-election and would retire from office when her term expired last month.

Her successor, Rep. Norm Johnson, who was sworn into office Jan. 12, said it is a sad day for the citizens of the 14th District and the state of Washington.

“This is a devastating loss for our community and for the state. Mary was one of the kindest, most caring and selfless individuals I have ever met. She loved the Yakima area where she grew up and lived nearly all of her life, and she was happiest when she was helping people,” said Johnson, R-Yakima.

“I was deeply saddened to hear of Mary’s passing. She will be dearly missed,” said Rep. Charles Ross, R-Naches. “Her legacy will live on in the many boards and organizations she founded or participated in. As a legislator, she did so much for the people of the state. Mary touched many lives in Olympia and at home with her warm spirit, and she will never be forgotten.”

Skinner was born in Los Angeles, California in 1945. At three months of age, her parents, migrant workers, moved to Wapato. Spanish was her first language and she learned English in the public schools. Her bilingual abilities gave her an advantage in helping people throughout the Yakima Valley.

Skinner graduated from Davis High School in Yakima, attended Yakima Valley Community College and graduated from Central Washington University with a B.A. in education. She was a junior high school teacher for a short time in the Yakima School District.

She was a tireless volunteer in many community groups and activities, including the Allied Arts Council of Yakima Valley, the American Association of University Women (past branch president), Yakima Junior League, the League of Women Voters, and PEO became her second community focus. She served as president of the Washington State Medical Association Auxiliary and was the director and co founder of the Washington State Medical Association Auxiliary Foundation. Skinner also served as a member of the Yakima Valley Community College Board, Yakima Valley Community College Foundation Board, Heritage College Board and the St. Elizabeth Hospital Community Board.

She was appointed as a 3rd Congressional District member to the Washington Board of Education and later served as a board member of the Washington Arts Commission.

During the Jan. 21 adoption of House Resolution 4605 which honored Skinner, Johnson noted her extensive achievements for the Yakima area while she served as 14th District representative.

“Mary’s contributions to our community are countless, from the Selah Overpass, the Valley Mall Boulevard extension, Millennium Arts Plaza, Capitol Theatre restoration, downtown Yakima redevelopment, and the Yakima Valley College higher education center, her fingerprints are all over these projects,” said Johnson, R-Yakima. “Besides serving as a volunteer in more than 18 organizations, an impassioned supporter of the arts, and as a leader in the community, Mary was responsible for passage of double fines in school zones, Anton’s child safety restraint law, legislation to assist senior citizens, creation of a state poet laureate, and extension of insurance coverage for colon cancer screening.”

Skinner first discovered she had colon cancer after a series of tests in March 2006. She immediately underwent surgery and then began intensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments. On Jan. 12, 2007, Skinner’s doctors told her the cancer was in remission. In August 2008, Skinner disclosed to family and friends that the cancer had returned. Since then, her health has steadily declined.

Johnson said Skinner’s passing will leave a large void nearly impossible to fill.

“Mary Skinner’s service to our community and to the state of Washington is immeasurable,” added Johnson. “She will be greatly missed.”

Mary Skinner was married for 40 years to Dr. Henry Harlow “Hal” Skinner, Jr., a surgeon. Dr. Skinner passed away Jan. 17. He was 88.

Joint services for both Dr. Hal Skinner and Rep. Mary Skinner are pending through Keith and Keith Funeral Home in Yakima.

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Washington State House Republican Communications