Charlene “Char” Hunt, a force with the Thurston County Democrats, is being remembered this week after she died Tuesday at age 68.
“Today we lost a dear friend, Charlene Hunt,” Gov. Jay Inslee tweeted on Tuesday. “…She passed away after a long and courageous battle with cancer.”
Hunt was married for 45 years to state Sen. Sam Hunt, who represents Olympia’s 22nd Legislative District. She was active in politics at the local, state and national level.
“She was just as political as I am,” Sen. Hunt told The Olympian on Thursday. “She just didn’t run for office.”
Char Hunt grew up in Aberdeen, and met her future husband at a Young Democrats state board meeting while she was a student at what’s now Western Washington University in Bellingham.
Hunt said he felt sparks right away, and described her as “a wonderful person; a fighter, strongly committed to the ideals that she believed in.”
“They got engaged after six weeks of dating,” said their daughter Hillary Hunt of Olympia.
The couple lived in Pasco for a few years before moving to Olympia and then Washington, D.C., when he was hired to work for then U.S. Sen. Warren Magnuson.
“One of her firm caveats was ‘I am not living in a state that didn’t vote to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution,’” Sam Hunt recalls. “Which meant no Virginia.”
After the family moved back to Thurston County, Char Hunt held several positions in the state, including House of Representatives Page Program supervisor and adjudicator at the state Department of Licensing.
One of her favorite activities was hosting campaign fundraiser dinners at the couple’s Olympia home.
“Our house was a constant revolving door of fundraisers for elected officials,” Hillary Hunt said.
Tumwater School Board member Kim Reykdal described Char Hunt as “a pillar of the Democratic Party in Thurston County.”
“She’s just a huge inspiration on many levels,” Reykdal said.
Thurston County Assessor Steven Drew said Char Hunt loved to spend time with her family and friends. “She was a ruthless pinochle player,” Drew added, with a chuckle.
Char Hunt was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2004. At the time, the doctors believed she had, at most, two and a half years to live, Hillary Hunt said.
She hated wigs, so she bought colorful chemo caps, Sam Hunt said. Then she underwent chemotherapy several times a year until her body couldn’t take it anymore — about 13 years.
“We kind of won the lottery,” Hillary Hunt said. “We got years that we statistically shouldn’t have had with her. It always amazed the doctor.”
One of Char Hunt’s passions was quilting. She had sewn her whole life, but took up quilting in more recent years. She had an eye for color and design selection, and used her hobby for charity, said her friend Cindy Coble.
“She was very much involved with Project Linus, which is an organization that makes quilts for kids in need,” Coble said.
Char Hunt often collected donations for an orphanage and families in Mexico. She also created quilts for local fundraisers, said retired state Sen. Karen Fraser, a Thurston County Democrat.
“She was just a wonderful person,” Fraser said. “(She) radiated cheer. You felt cheerful around her.”
In addition to her husband and daughter, Char Hunt is survived by son Nathan Hunt of Thurston County and 3-year-old grandson Rory of Olympia.
Services will be held at St. Michael Parish in Olympia, with a time and date still to be determined, Sen. Hunt said.