Sally Willinger Fox '63: Community Activist

Sally Willinger Fox '63 will long be remembered in the Seattle, Wash. area. Her namesake, the MV Sally Fox, is one of two passenger ferries serving Vashon Island, thanks to her efforts prior to her death in 2007. The passenger ferry is the first for King County, Wash.

For the last ten years of her life, she lived on Vashon Island and commuted by ferry to her job as Benefits Manager for the City of Seattle. In 2000, the State of Washington, which had operated a passenger ferry between Vashon Island and downtown Seattle, was hit with severe funding cuts, and determined that its responsibilities did not include public transit.

Sally led a group of commuters from Vashon on an imaginative and often fun-filled community organizing effort, and after five years of lobbying and negotiating, King County took over the passenger ferry service.

In 2008, the Vashon Community Council passed a resolution urging King County to name the first County-owned ferry after her, in recognition of her leadership and passionate advocacy.

Largely paid for with federal grants, the ferry was dedicated with an "environmentally-conscious" mesh-covered bottle of champagne on March 28, 2015. More than 500 people gathered for the ceremony. The 100-foot long, state-of-the-art catamaran has indoor and outdoor seating for 250 passengers, including handicapped-accessible accommodations, and space for 26 bicycles. The water taxi cruises at 28 knots, and went into service on April 7, 2015.

"It ain't the Queen Mary, but who else do you know who has a ferry boat named after them?" quipped Sally's widower, Michael Fox.

A plaque permanently mounted on the vessel reads: "Sally Willinger Fox was a passionate advocate for the preservation of passenger ferry service between Vashon Island and downtown Seattle. She understood that passenger-only service enhances Islanders' family lives, protects the environment, reduces congestion, and contributes to the health, vibrancy, and fun of Vashon and Maury Islands. As a public servant for the City of Seattle, she relished her relaxed ferry commutes with old and new friends. She led Islanders in bringing together state and local government leaders, the maritime unions, and the business community to talk, listen, and cooperate with one another to save the 'foot ferry.'"

This article originally appeared in the winter 2015 - 2016 issue of Perspectives magazine.