Politics & Government

Wife of California congressman dies of ovarian cancer

WASHINGTON — Ethie Weaver Radanovich, the wife of Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, died Thursday night following a three-year ovarian cancer ordeal.

A former California political consultant, the 50-year-old congressional spouse was undergoing hospice care in the family's northern Virginia home when she died. Her husband was present.

"Ethie was the love of my life," Radanovich said in a statement issued early Friday afternoon. "Her smile would light up a room and her boundless energy brought joy and beauty to everyone she met."

Ethie Radanovich slipped into a coma sometime Wednesday. She passed away about 9:30 p.m. Thursday, on the eve of an epic snowstorm that was descending on the Washington area.

Citing his wife's medical condition, Radanovich in late December announced he would not be seeking re-election in the 19th Congressional District. The former Mariposa County supervisor has represented the district, currently stretching from Stanislaus to Fresno counties, since 1995.

Radanovich took his oath of office that year as a single man. At the time, on the opposite coast, Ethelinde "Ethie" Weaver was forging her own career as a consultant with the Burlingame-based firm Woodward & McDowell.

An ebullient Oklahoma native, Ethie Weaver had a longstanding interest in politics that previously included a stint with the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

"She had great political acumen, and was very astute about politics both inside and outside the Beltway," said Radanovich's former press secretary, Brian Kennedy, who is now a managing director of FD Americas Public Affairs.

More memorable still, Kennedy added, was her personality, which he described as "larger than life." She was deft with the thoughtful gesture. Out-of-town visitors might get little gift bags. Dinner guests always found someone fun to chat with. Gracefully, she attracted attention when she entered a room.

"She's the perfect politician's wife, vibrant and always upbeat and positive," said Radanovich's former chief of staff, John McCamman.

Ethie Radanovich's "solid perseverance" proved particularly inspiring after McCamman was diagnosed with colon cancer late last year, he said. Now director of the California Department of Fish and Game, McCamman said his own prognosis is good. His attitude is certainly stronger, he said, after having observed Ethie Radanovich cope with her own bad hand.

"Her tenacity and perseverance throughout her battle with cancer was evidence of her love of life and a commitment to the ideals she believed in," Radanovich said.

One of Radanovich's college roommates from Chico State University had first introduced Ethie Weaver to the future congressman in the mid-1980s, but they didn't start dating until 1996. That July, while dining at Chez Michel restaurant in San Francisco's Ghirardelli Square, Radanovich literally got down on his knee to propose marriage.

Tipped off by a Radanovich staffer, the late San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen broke the news of the engaging moment. It was exactly the kind of touch the media-savvy Ethie Weaver could appreciate.

Weaver and Radanovich were married in November 1996 at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Mariposa. In 1998, she gave birth to their only child, King. To this day, pictures of the 11-year-old King Radanovich light up the public reception area of Radanovich's fourth-floor Capitol Hill office.

Ethie Radanovich served as Woodward & McDowell's Washington representative for a time, operating out of the family home, though she was not a registered federal lobbyist.

She was first diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer in January 2007, not realizing at first just how sick she was. Common ovarian cancer symptoms include bloating, gastrointestinal distress and other seeming trivialities, easy at first to ignore.

Nonetheless, ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death among women between the ages of 35 and 74. When the cancer has advanced to Stage IV by the time of its discovery, as it had with Radanovich, one or both ovaries are implicated and the cancer has spread beyond the abdomen.

Since 2007, Radanovich endured a harsh regime that included a hysterectomy and repeated rounds of radiation and chemotherapy. She had some months in which she appeared fine. Last January, she was out and about for presidential inaugural festivities. By late November, though, her health took a marked turn for the worse.

Over the past several weeks, hospice care was engaged and family members began trekking back to Washington for a final vigil.

"King and I so appreciate all the kind words and prayers from everyone — they kept our spirits buoyed throughout," Radanovich said.

One of Radanovich's longtime congressional allies, Rep. David Dreier, R-San Dimas, began informing other House members Friday of Ethie Radanovich's passing.

Memorial services will be held in Mariposa, Calif., and Alexandria, Va.

The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Mariposa Bears Football League, c/o Dave McNally, P.O. Box 2098, Mariposa, Calif. 95338, or to Mariposa Parks & Recreation Department for the Mariposa Little League, c/o Shannon Hansen, P.O. Box 732, Mariposa, Calif. 95338.