Councilwoman Sophia Russell died shortly after 8 p.m. Saturday at Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital after her latest bout with cancer.
Russell was 64 years old. She would have turned 64 on Nov. 22.
"It is with a heavy heart that the City of Dover announces the passing of Councilwoman Sophia R. Russell," Public Affairs Coordinator Kay Dietz-Sass said in statement sent out Sunday. "Ms. Russell passed away Saturday night after her courageous battle with cancer."
Details of her funeral arrangements will be released as soon as possible, Dietz-Sass said.
Russell was initially diagnosed with uterine cancer in September 2011, Dietz-Sass said. She underwent surgery and chemotherapy and appeared to have beaten the disease, she added.
However, she was given a diagnosis of lung cancer on Aug. 10, Dietz-Sass said. On Aug. 12, Russell's doctor informed her that the cancer had metastasized to the bone.
Since that time, Dover City Council members had kept Russell in their thoughts as she missed council meetings from that time forward.
Russell first won election to council for the Fourth District in 2005, when a special election was held to replace the late Councilman John W. Pitts, who had died while in office.
In April, Russell was unopposed in her bid for re-election. On May 14, Delaware Superior Court Justice Henry duPont Ridgely administered the oath of office to Russell and other members of council as part of council's annual reorganization.
Dover Director of Planning & Community Development Ann Marie Townshend asked fellow city employees in an early Monday morning email to keep Mrs. Russell's family in their thoughts and prayers.
City Chaplain Wallace Dixon prayed for Russell’s family during the invocation at the outset of Dover City Council’s meeting held Monday night. Council President Thomas Leary welcomed a packed crowd to the meeting, noting it was a “somber evening.”
Shortly thereafter, City Clerk Traci McDowell read a Dover City Council resolution honoring Russell at the outset of council’s meeting “as an outspoken advocate for the underprivileged of our community.” Dover Mayor Carleton E. Carey Sr. then presented the resolution to Dietz-Sass, who accepted the proclamation on behalf of Russell’s family.
Dover Public Library Director Margie Cyr said before the meeting that Russell was a huge supporter of the library, which she frequented often. Russell served as chairwoman of the city Parks & Recreation & Community Enhancement Committee for a number of years.
“She was one of those folks who used the city services so that when she spoke about them it was because she knew about them,” Cyr said. “It’s just a huge loss."