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Rose Mofford, Arizona's first female governor, dead at 94

Rose Mofford, who served as Arizona's first female governor several decades ago, died Thursday at the age of 94.

She died at Gardiner Home, a Phoenix hospice where she had been moved after a recent fall at her home, according to The Arizona Republic.

Social media immediately lit up with condolences and praise from Democratic and Republican candidates alike for the woman known not only for her political achievement and her trademark white beehive hairdo, but for her generous, funny and feisty personality. 

"The passing of our beloved Rose is truly heartbreaking," wrote Alexis Tameron, chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, about the death of a fellow Democrat.

"During a time of great tumult for our state, her stability and grace and fire was welcomed and revered by Arizonans of all political stripes."

Mofford fell into the job of governor in 1988 when she was working as Secretary of State and succeeded the controversial Gov. Evan Mecham after he was impeached on charges of obstruction of justice and misuse of public funds.  She did not run for a full four-term term in the election in 1990 and retired from government in 1991, spending the rest of her life doing charitable work.

Her brief stint as governor was sandwiched between two controversial governors, Mecham and Fife Symington III, who resigned after being convicted of bank fraud in 1997.

Mofford, was born Rose Perica on June 22, 1922 in the mining town of Globe. The daughter of Austrian immigrants became the first female class president of Globe High School and an All-American softball player.

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After graduating from high school in 1940 as valedictorian, she began working as a secretary for the state treasurer. Mofford then held several jobs in and out of Arizona government and ended up as Secretary of State in 1977. She was elected and reelected in 1978, 1982 and 1986.

Her marriage to T.R. "Lefty" Mofford, a Phoenix police captain, lasted a decade and ended in divorce in 1957. They had no children.

U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, also a Democrat,  wrote "With her abiding love for our state, steady leadership, no-nonsense approach and good humor, it's no wonder Rose Mofford was a role model to me and so many other women and girls across Arizona."

Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake Tweeted "Arizona has lost a true trailblazer and dedicated public servant with Rose Mofford's passing today. "

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said he joined Arizonans in mourning her.

And John Correia, a Phoenix pastor, lamented "She was a gem, for sure. Oh how I wish we would go back to days of disagreeing with civility and care!"

She will be cremated and buried privately, the Republic said. A service will be held later at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Phoenix.

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