BOSTON (CBS) — Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman vice presidential candidate, has died at the age of 75 at Massachusetts General Hospital. She died Saturday, March 26 surrounded by family after a 12-year battle with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer.
“She had a zest for life and coupled that with always willing to help others,” Dr. Ken Anderson said. Dr. Anderson was Ferraro’s doctor and was by her bedside when she passed away Saturday morning.
Dr. Anderson is the Chief of the Multiple Myeloma Center at Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the Kraft Family Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
WBZ-TV’s Paul Burton reports.
“Gerry was not only a patient but a dear friend. She changed the world for women but always thinking of those in need,” Dr. Anderson said.
The doctor said Ferraro was inspirational to many.
“Gerry was our hero at Dana Farber. Patients were attracted her like a magnet. She was an inspiration an example and living everyday to the fullest and helping others,” Dr. Anderson said.
Ferraro was Walter Mondale’s vice presidential running mate on the Democratic Party ticket in 1984, making her the first woman and first Italian-American to run on a major party national ticket.
Ferraro was born in Newburgh, N.Y. on August 26, 1935. After graduating from Marymount Manhattan College in Manhattan she became a second grade teacher in Queens.
While teaching she attended Fordham Law School and earned a law degree. She was one of three women in her class.
She passed the New York State Bar exam three days after her marriage to John Zaccaro, and practiced under her maiden name as a tribute to her mother, who was widowed while raising Ferraro.
Ferraro practiced law pro bono in Queens County Family court while raising her children at home. In 1974, she became the Queens County Assistant District Attorney. There she started the Special Victims Bureau which supervised prosecution of sex crimes, child abuse, domestic violence and violent crimes against senior citizens.
CBS News Radio’s Jim Taylor reports.
In 1978, Ferraro was elected to Congress from New York’s 9th Congressional District in Queens. She served three terms in the House of Representatives before former Vice President Walter Mondale chose her to run with him against incumbents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. In the end, Reagan won 49 of the 50 states, the largest landslide in nearly half a century.
After learning of her passing, Former President George H. W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, released this statement:
Barbara and I were deeply saddened to learn of Gerry’s passing. Though we were one-time political opponents, I am happy to say Gerry and I became friends in time — a friendship marked by respect and affection. I admired Gerry in many ways, not the least of which was the dignified and principled manner she blazed new trails for women in politics.
Barbara and I — and all Bushes — send our heartfelt condolences and love to Gerry’s family.
After the unsuccessful bid at the White House, Ferraro served as a Fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. In 1993, she was appointed the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission by President Bill Clinton, and served in that position through 1996.
In 1992 and 1998, Ferraro was unsuccessful at gaining a bid for Senate.
In the late-1990s Ferraro co-hosted CNN’s political program Crossfire. She also served as a political analyst for FOX News and a columnist for the New York Times.
She received several honorary degrees over the years and in 2010 a Long Island City post office was named in her honor. She also penned three books: Ferraro, My Story, which recounts the ’84 campaign; Geraldine Ferraro: Changing History; and Framing a Life: A Family Memoir.
Ferraro was first diagnosed with multiple myeloma in December 1998. She publicly disclosed the illness in June 2001, when she testified in Congressional hearings for passage of the Hematological Cancer Research Investment and Education Act. She had frequently spoken about the disease and was an honorary board member of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.
“Gerry had a 13 year battle with Multiple Myeloma but she turned her own illness into hope for patients world wide. She went public with her illness so she could create awareness and help raise money for research,” Dr. Anderson said.
Ferraro is survived by her husband of fifty years, John A. Zaccaro; her three children and their spouses; and her eight grandchildren.
Her family said “Geraldine Anne Ferraro Zaccaro was widely known as a leader, a fighter for justice, and a tireless advocate for those without a voice. To us, she was a wife, mother, grandmother and aunt, a woman devoted to and deeply loved by her family. Her courage and generosity of spirit throughout her life waging battles big and small, public and personal, will never be forgotten and will be sorely missed.”
WBZ-TV’s Paul Burton contributed to this report.