In 2009, Carol Williams served alongside fellow Missoula Democrat Carolyn Squires in the state Senate. Squires was battling colon cancer at the time and, despite her illness, didn't want to miss out on any important votes—not even in the weeks after she underwent a major surgery.
"I was a minority leader in that session," Williams says, "and so when I'd come home on the weekends I'd go see her. And she wasn't, I didn't think, in any condition to come back to work."
Williams helped convince the Senate leaders to set up a system so Squires could remotely watch the session and call in her votes. She says the House sometimes allowed legislators to vote remotely, but it was an unprecedented move for the Senate.
"And only for Carolyn Squires I think they would have done that, because they had so much admiration for her," Williams says. "And that's kind of a part of Montana history in a way, certainly the legacy of Carolyn and how respected she was by colleagues on both sides of the aisle."
Squires died on March 21 at the age of 75. With her passing, friends say the state lost a singularly devoted politician and activist.
"She was a stalwart of our delegation for decades, and in that time she accomplished so much," wrote Rep. Bryce Bennett, D-Missoula, in a Facebook post. "She was a lovable curmudgeon that gave all of us a solid ribbing and didn't let anyone tell her what to do."
Squires served in the House from 1987 to 2001 and again from 2011 to 2015, and the Senate from 2003 to 2011. Throughout her career, she was well-known for her dedication to women's rights, access to health care and workers' rights.
Former state Sen. Jim Shockley, R-Victor, says despite he and Squires' opposing viewpoints, they got along well personally and sometimes grabbed lunch or breakfast together to hash things out.
"Carolyn was a very partisan woman, a fervent Democrat," Shockley recalls. "But she really did her job and Carolyn and I were good friends."
It's that camaraderie and respect that most resonates with former colleagues.
"In addition to being a great public servant, she was a great friend to people," Williams says. "Once you're one of Carolyn's special people, you're special forever for her."Story updated March 26 to reflect additional legislative terms.