Anchorage’s first lady reflects on life, legacy and family connection to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg(FILE PHOTO)
Published: Sep. 21, 2020 at 11:07 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - As many across the United States mourn the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Alaskans have been reflecting on their own connections to the national pioneer.

“I mean, you know, this was not unexpected,” said first lady of Anchorage Mara Kimmel. “She was 87 and has suffered so many health challenges, but I think there was a secret part of us that just hoped women like that could live forever.”

Justice Ginsburg was appointed to the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States by Fmr. President Bill Clinton, and took her seat on August 10, 1993.

Even before that, however, Ginsburg was a daughter, a mother, and a friend whom many knew and loved dearly. For Kimmel’s family, a connection was passed down from mother and aunt to the next generation: Justice Ginsburg is someone Kimmel has been hearing about for as long as she can remember, with her own mom and aunt and Justice Ginsburg all even attending the same summer camp.

“My family connection is old,” Kimmel said. “They called her ’Kiki' Bader, a sweet nickname. So we grew up hearing about the connection they had with her, which is lovely."

After several bouts with cancer, Justice Ginsburg died on the eve of Rosh Hashanah. For some of the Jewish faith - of which the justice is known to be - this is considered a mark of righteousness.

“There is an idea that God knows how important a person is," Kimmel said, "and knows that they’re supposed to die that year, so tries to hang on to them until the end of the year.”

Kimmel said her mother is “devastated” over the justice’s passing.

“Most other women around the United States recognize the pivotal role Justice Ginsburg played in everybody’s life," she said, “in making sure we had equal access to basic opportunities.”

“Eighty-seven is a lovely life to lead, and the opportunities she’s had on this earth to do the work that she’s done have been amazing,” she continued. “I think that the sadness is not just limited to the people who knew her.”

Justice Ginsburg, who passed on Sept. 18 of complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer, was born in Brooklyn and had two children, several grandchildren and one great-grandchild, according to the Supreme Court. Among other accomplishments, she attended Cornell University, Harvard Law School and Columbia Law School, eventually co-founding the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1971. Nine years later, she was appointed a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the court said.

“She came to prominence as a Supreme Court Justice when she was appointed by President Clinton,” Kimmel said, “but I think this notion of leaving the world a better place really is emblematic of the sense of social justice that many Jews in the United States feel, and feel committed to leaving the world a better place. It’s not unique to Jews, but it is definitely part of living a Jewish way of life.”

When the Supreme Court standout came to Anchorage in 2008 through the Alaska Bar Association, Anchorage’s first lady couldn’t resist visiting her.

“Like many of us, I lined up to go meet Justice Ginsburg," Kimmel said. "We were so excited and totally fangirling and awestruck at this woman who was so pivotal.

“Her comments during the keynote speech were all oriented,” she continued, “around your voice, your actions, and the power they can have, even though, and even when, you’re an outsider.”

Kimmel said she hopes the late justice can forever inspire people and symbolize the power each individual has to make good and positive change.

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg provided a light and a beacon for those of us who are working for justice and equality through the country,” Kimmel said. “She put down the torch. It’s time for us to pick it up.”

The Supreme Court said in a release Monday that Justice Ginsburg will lie in repose at the Supreme Court of the United States on Wednesday, September 23, and Thursday, September 24. A private interment service has been scheduled for next week at Arlington National Cemetery.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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