Civic leader, political wife Sally Clark Gorton dies

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Sally Clark Gorton died at her home in Clyde Hill on Saturday from breast cancer. She was with her husband, former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, and family and friends. She was 80.

Mrs. Gorton started out in journalism, working at the Selah Valley Optimist in high school and the Yakima Daily Republic during college. She graduated from the University of Washington with a journalism degree in 1954 and went to work for The Seattle Times in 1955, at one point becoming an assistant women's editor.

She met Slade Gorton at a gathering held by mutual friends in Leschi. Their courtship included movies on Friday nights, followed by skiing on Sundays.

They were married June 28, 1958. Slade Gorton was elected to the state House of Representatives that same year.

During the 1959 legislative session, the couple shared a rental house down the street from the state Capitol with Joel Pritchard and Dan Evans. Mrs. Gorton was expecting their first child, Tod, at the time. Evans went on to become governor and later served in the U.S. Senate. Pritchard later became lieutenant governor and served in Congress.

Mrs. Gorton left The Seattle Times after the baby was born. Tod was followed by Sarah in 1960 and Rebecca in 1962.

Sarah Gorton Nortz said her mother played an important role in Slade Gorton's political career as he served in the state House from 1959 to 1969, as state attorney general from 1969 to 1981, and spent 18 years in the U.S. Senate.

"She was incredibly warm and friendly and approachable," her daughter said. "She seemed to have a wonderful ability to meet people, make a connection and then stay connected. She has friends that she met on early campaigns that she stayed friends with her entire life. So I don't think he could've picked a better partner for his life."

She stayed involved in journalism, launching the first student newspaper at her children's school, and as a member of the Seattle Symphony Women's Committee, she was the editor of its newsletter, "Symphanotes."

Mrs. Gorton held leadership positions with the Olympia YWCA, Patrons of South Sound Cultural Activities, the Governor's Mansion Foundation, the Governor's Festival of the Arts, the Olympia area Delta Delta Delta alumni chapter, the March of Dimes, the Cancer Fund Drive, the Northwest Girls' Choir and the Seattle Aquarium.

Sarah Nortz noted that when her parents lived in Washington, D.C., her mother would have her grandchildren stay with her separately, and "she would do the museums and all the activities and tourist activities with the kids, over and over, to spend time with them."

"The most important things to my mother were her grandchildren," she said. "She adored them."

Mrs. Gorton is survived by her husband of 55 years, Slade Gorton; her three children, Thomas Gorton, of Seattle, Sarah Gorton Nortz (Joseph Nortz), of Clyde Hill, and Rebecca Gorton, of Woodinville; and seven grandchildren.

Services will be held at 4 p.m. Friday at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 8398 N.E. 12th St., in Medina.