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It might even have surprised Jennifer Dunn
It might even have surprised Jennifer Dunn if shed heard what I did the other day when a restaurant patron seated near me commented to her companion, Jennifer Dunn died and some opera singer.
Some opera singer was Luciano Pavarotti, such a superb singer theyve already started arguing over who succeeds him in estimation as the finest living tenor in the world. He was 71, and had suffered for a year from pancreatic cancer so most news organizations already had an obituary drawn up just waiting for the curtain to come down.
Jennifer, six terms as state Republican chair and six terms as a congresswoman from Bellevue, was 66 and died very suddenly and unexpectedly of a pulmonary embolism.
Oddly enough, Karen Marchioro, the chair of the state Democratic party the same time Jennifer was for the Republicans, had just died a week or so before. And Jennifers death was followed by that of Sen. Nat Washington, D-Ephrata, whom I had known for the 30 years he served in the Legislature. He was 91.
I never met Pavarotti, of course, but admired him and appreciated the fact he elevated Puccinis last opera, Turandot, to the status of other fine operas by adopting Nessun Dorma as his signature song. Turandot had languished in the seldom-performed category since Puccinis death in 1924 because he never finished it. One of his collaborators put a third act together out of melodies Puccini left behind that he intended to use.
The reason Pavrotti adopted Nessun Dorma, I believe, is that it was said in the opera world that Italian tenors couldnt sing it because they couldnt make the drop from the first words sung Nessun Dorma in a high key to the very low second Nessun Dorma.
He could do it and liked to prove it every chance he got. Beautiful aria, too.
I remember Karen Marchioro as a tough warrior for the Democratic party. She usually eyed me with curiosity when we met because I told her how high my cholesterol was then and she, a registered nurse, expected me to drop dead at any minute.
Nat Washington chaired the Senate Transportation Committee for a long time and when queried about keeping ferry fares down, would reply, You chose to live there and youll just have to pay the price for it. However his lack of sympathy for those of us waterbound, he was a kind and decent man. A gentleman. The epitome of what you expect in a senator.
Now Jennifer. I once referred to her as regally handsome. Wes Pruden, editor of The Washington Times, did better. Jennifer Dunn, he wrote, is drop dead gorgeous. She was GOP chair when the pro-life faction wrested control of the party from pro-choice members yet there was no move to unseat her despite her known but seldom voiced attitude on abortion, the people who have to live with that decision should make it.
She twice was Americas delegate to the United Nations Commission on Status of Women annual session. The first time, in 1984, she told me, eastern European women balked at spending time discussing spousal abuse, alcoholism and the like, saying they did not have those problems in the Soviet Union. Six years later, thats what they wanted to talk about because they couldnt keep their problems quiet any more.
Jennifer made a bid for leader in the House and lost. She refused a plea from the president to run for the U.S. Senate in 2004 and retired instead, going to work as a lobbyist and remarrying.
News of her death generated such an outpouring of grief, even from her political adversaries. I guess the woman in the restaurant was right. Jennifer Dunn died and some opera singer.
Adele Ferguson can be reached at P.O. Box 69, Hansville, WA, 98340.