Remembering Louise Slaughter

Mar 23, 2018

Credit Tianna Mañón / WXXI News

Everyone has a Louise Slaughter story. Whether it’s running into her at Wegmans, passing her in the airport, or seeing her at a restaurant in Fairport and then ending up in a conversation about health care, the environment or the latest tax bill.

But Slaughter didn’t just talk about policy. She had a reputation for treating Rochesterians with dignity and respect, and for being both fierce and friendly – a reputation she also carried with her in Washington, D.C.

At Slaughter's funeral, former Sen. Hillary Clinton remembered her fondly.

“After I was elected, she took me under her wing, showed me the ropes on Capitol Hill -- something she did for many others, particularly women entering Congress. I had her enthusiastic support on my presidential campaigns. And it was always so much fun to run into Louise anywhere -- in the Capitol, on the campaign trail -- and hear her exclaim, as only she could, 'Honey, I've missed you like a front tooth!' "

Former President Bill Clinton also was in attendance.

Slaughter’s colleagues Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi and Congressman John Lewis spoke at the service, each recalling with affection their own stories about the late congresswoman.

Lewis and Slaughter were both elected to Congress the same year – 1986.

"She was strong, she was solid, and she didn’t take any stuff."

But perhaps the best stories about Slaughter came not from her government family, but from her real family. Her granddaughter, Lauren Secartore, said it wasn’t a sacrifice to share her grandmother with the community – it was an honor.

"Like most grandmas, she wanted her granddaughters to have opportunities she never had. But when your grandma is a trailblazer, when she is elected to Congress when you are a 5-year-old little girl, when she not only hopes that you are afforded the rights, protections and powers given to any man but passes legislation to ensure it happens, when your grandma is a trailblazer, your path in life doesn't look like a path, but an open road."

And her grandson, Daniel Secatore, spoke of her life as a perfect example of the American dream.

"When she and Grandpa Bob first came to Rochester they had so little that my mother as a newborn slept in a drawer. And today, she's being mourned by presidents. That's a life."

It seemed almost strange to be in a room filled with all of Slaughter’s favorite people – in government and in life – and not see her make the rounds, shake hands, talk to people. It was strange not to see her take the stage, tell a story, laugh her signature laugh, and tell us all bless our hearts.

But one thing was clear from her funeral services, everyone who knew her will carry with them their story of her and what she meant to them.

As former Sen. Hillary Clinton remarked, Slaughter was one of a kind. And despite being a coal miner’s daughter from Kentucky, for decades, she belonged to Rochester, and Rochester belonged to her.