Karen Sanford, who represented the north Vancouver Island constituency of Comox in the provincial legislature for 14 years, died at her home near Courtenay on Monday morning. She was 78.
Ms. Sanford was diagnosed with heart disease and breast cancer many years ago, but succumbed to an untreatable sarcoma.
She first won election in 1972 by knocking off Social Credit cabinet minister Dan Campbell as Dave Barrett's NDP swept to office.
Though the NDP lost government three years later, Ms. Sanford held onto the seat by a narrow margin. She was re-elected in 1979 and won her fourth consecutive campaign in 1983 by just 297 votes out of more than 29,000 cast.
She was defeated by Stan Hagen of the Socreds in the Bill Vander Zalm sweep of 1986.
Jim Hume, the veteran political columnist, once described her performance in the legislature as "sometimes strident but usually on target."
Karen Elizabeth Petersen was born on May 31, 1932, at Wayne, a thriving Alberta coal-mining town. Her family moved to the Comox Valley during the war.
She married fellow teacher Pete Sanford in 1960. Eight years later, they built a home overlooking Georgia Strait near Kitty Coleman Provincial Park, about 15 kilometres north of Courtenay.
Ms. Sanford remained active in politics after her defeat, helping to raise funds for a party headquarters in Courtenay. The building was named for her last year.
She leaves two sons and a daughter, Donna Sanford, who is married to Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin. She also leaves three grandchildren. She was predeceased by her husband, who died of a heart attack in 2006, at the age of 74.