One of the most influential and respected people in local Republican Party politics died late Tuesday at Windber Hospice.
Ann Wilson was chairwoman of Cambria County’s GOP committee and the only Republican on Johnstown City Council at the time of her passing, following a short battle against an aggressive cancer.
She was 47.
“It’s a terrible tragedy,” said her husband, Bill Wilson.
Wilson, a mother of three children, died from melanoma that spread to her brain, liver and lungs. She was first diagnosed in mid-November after experiencing blurred vision and headaches.
“It came out of the blue,” Bill Wilson said.
The 8th Ward resident started as a party volunteer and eventually became the county chairwoman in 2011.
She succeeded Robert A. Gleason Jr., who left the local position because of his increased responsibilities as the state party chairman and as a member of the Republican National Committee’s budget panel.
“On a personal note, Ann was a dear friend and colleague, and I have always admired her devotion to her family and her friends,” Gleason said.
“She was a wonderful person who will be missed dearly. Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband, Bill, and their children.”
In recent years, she helped Republicans regain the majority on the Cambria County Board of Commissioners, supported Keith Rothfus’ successful bid for Pennsylvania’s 12th district seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and served as Sen. John McCain’s county chairwoman during his 2008 presidential campaign.
“I was very sad to learn about the passing of Ann Wilson,” Rothfus said.
“She was a tremendous leader and tireless advocate for her community. My thoughts and prayers are with the Wilson family.”
On the statewide level, Gov. Tom Corbett appointed her to the Pennsylvania Commission for Women in 2012.
“She was able to balance her career and family and do all the things women need to do today,” said Republican Kathy Holtzman, a former county commissioner.
Wilson first ran for council in 2005. She was the top vote-getter despite facing a 2-to-1 Democratic edge in registration. Wilson felt she offered a “fresh perspective” to the board as a working mom.
“I don’t know that anybody really represents the working families,” Wilson said during her first campaign.
“I think that women are underrepresented.”
She also served as Johnstown’s deputy mayor.
“Ann was a very special young lady, high energy, very personable friend,” said Johnstown City Councilman Pete Vizza, a Democrat. “I’ve known her a long time. We go way back with our relationship with the political parties. I have the utmost admiration for her. She’s a good person, a good mom. It was an honor to work with her on a variety of things.”
Wilson’s current council term was set to expire in January 2014.
She worked as a marketing director for The Gleason Agency.
Tribune-Democrat reporter David Hurst contributed to this story.