JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Betty Anne Ward McCaskill, the mother of Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill and a political trailblazer in her own right, died Monday at her home in St. Louis after a long struggle with heart and kidney problems, the senator said.
The first-term Democratic senator, who is locked in a close re-election race with Republican Rep. Todd Akin, had canceled most of her campaign events starting last week to spend time with her 84-year-old mother. She said Saturday that her mother suffered from acute cardio-renal failure and had lost consciousness at several points in recent days.
"For some time, Mom's health has not been good, and our family takes comfort that she is now at rest," McCaskill said in a statement announcing her mother's death. "We were incredibly lucky to have a mother like her, a woman of great intellect and strength, who loved and nurtured, challenged and pushed, and was always there with wise counsel and great humor."
Long before her daughter entered Missouri politics, Betty Anne McCaskill had made her own mark in Democratic circles. McCaskill has recalled how her mother sent her children out on Halloween in 1960 with the door-to-door message: "Trick or treat and vote for JFK," referring to the Democratic presidential candidate, John F. Kennedy.
In 1970, she was appointed to the Missouri Commission on the Status of Women, which evaluated the opportunities for women in Missouri government, education and business. The next year, she became the first women elected to the Columbia, Mo., City Council. She also once served as president for the trustees of William Woods University in Fulton, her alma mater.
She ran unsuccessfully for the state House in 1978 against Republican Leroy Blunt, whose son Roy Blunt now serves as Missouri's other U.S. senator. She later began a career as a financial consultant for Waddell and Reed in Kansas City, after her husband, Bill, became ill.