Sarah Ann Dowling of Moorestown, communications director for former New Jersey Gov. Jim Florio and an active Democratic political campaigner, died Wednesday, Dec. 20, at Jefferson University Hospital in Washington Township of a massive stroke. She was 80.
“She was very diligent, and responsible for a lot of what I was able to get done,” said Florio, a lawyer who served as the state’s 49th governor from 1990 through 1994.
“She did more than a press secretary; she was my communications person starting in 1974, when I first went to Congress,” he said. “She also had a good sense of humor and kept everyone laughing.”
Ms. Dowling helped elect Democratic freeholders, members of Congress, state legislators, governors, and presidents, said her daughter, Mary Dowling, who lives in Moorestown. “Around our house, Election Day was like Christmas. Mom
just loved politics and elections.”
Born in Elizabeth, N.J., Ms. Dowling graduated from Battin High School in that city and later moved to California, where she worked on the 1960 presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy. After starting a family in Los Angeles, Ms. Dowling returned to New Jersey, where she was active in numerous campaigns after working as a journalist for various print, radio, and television outlets, her daughter said.
As a single mother who raised four children, Ms. Dowling also advocated for women assuming leadership roles in politics. She was elected to the Democratic National Committee and served 16 years, and was president of the New Jersey
Federation of Democratic Women.
She also was a communications specialist for the New Jersey State Senate and worked for various state party organizations and state agencies.
Ms. Dowling was always willing to help, and was very witty, said her daughter. “Anyone who needed help, she would always give it,” said Mary Dowling, adding that her mother would pitch in to clean the sidewalk of snow, drive her granddaughter to ballet classes, and do whatever else she could.
“When we were kids, my mother was single with four kids and she worked numerous jobs to make money. We would all be in tow in the car when she would go to car crashes to write a story for a CamGlo newspaper to make probably $25,” Mary Dowling said. “She also instilled in us spirituality, to have God in our lives.”
Ms. Dowling was predeceased by her former husband, Richard Dowling.
In addition to her daughter, she is survived by her brother, Thomas Calavano of Bridgewater, N.J.; and her three sons, Richard
of Loveland, Colo.; Tom of Ventura, Calif., and David, of Sewell.
Visitation was scheduled for 6:30 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 22, at Platt Memorial Chapels, 2001 Berlin Rd., Cherry Hill. A Funeral Mass will be said Saturday, Dec. 23, at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, 42 W. Main St., Moorestown. Interment will be in Calvary Cemetery.