In Memory of Jerry Emmett, 1914-2019
by Toni Denis, former Chair of DWPA
I remember meeting Jerry Emmett at my first Democratic Women of the Prescott Area luncheon in 2009, and even then I thought she was far more energetic than most people around her. “Animated” and “alive” are two words I’d use to describe her. Also, “firecracker,” because she had a sense of humor that made people crack up. Despite already being in her 90s, she was vocal and opinionated on all things political and kept up with current events, despite being nearly blind.
Jerry talked about being involved in politics since she was a young girl when her mother took her to the voting booth the first time women were able to vote. After seeing how much it meant to her mother, it influenced her to be politically active. She became a member of the women’s caucus at a young age, now the Arizona Federation of Democratic Women, as she worked as a public school teacher in the Phoenix area and raised a family. When she retired from teaching, she moved to Prescott and founded a women’s Democratic club, called the Democratic Women of the Prescott Area, with her cousin, Dawn Knight.
Jerry was a natural leader. When I was chair of the DWPA, she often would get riled up about an issue and ask if she could speak and encourage people to act, whether it was writing our elected officials or protesting. She had what I’d call a “fire in the belly” for justice and fairness. Almost every meeting she’d stand up and speak out in a way that few people do about what weighed on her mind.
The club celebrated her 99th, 100th and 101st birthdays at DWPA meetings and then her 103rd and 104th birthdays at Las Fuentes assisted living home where she moved after she had fallen and broken her hip. Her last birthday celebration was especially poignant because many of her students and longtime friends attended and told stories about how she’d positively influenced them. I talked about how her involvement with the women’s caucus influenced many women to get involved in politics and run for office, including her friend Carolyn Warner, who had run for governor and lost in a three-way split.
Jerry attended almost every DWPA meeting and Yavapai County Democratic Party meeting until she became more fragile in her 100s. She had to be led to a seat because of her blindness, and often had a beer with lunch, one of the perks of age.
The DWPA named an award to honor Jerry Emmett in 2009, and it recognizes volunteers for their dedication to the party.
Jerry charmed everyone from Hillary Clinton to Kamala Harris at the national Democratic Convention in 2016, where she was the oldest Arizonan attending and announced the state’s votes for Clinton. Her legacy lives on in the AFDW, the DWPA and in the hearts of all who knew her.