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County council candidate, alumni association president dies Wednesday

POSTED AT 12:28 AM ON Sep. 21, 2012  (UPDATED AT 12:30 AM ON Sep. 21, 2012)


Monroe County Council candidate Sophia Travis, 46, died Wednesday night in her  Bloomington home.

Travis’ death was unexpected, Indiana Public Media reported, and associated with a heart-related condition.

“Sophia had suffered since early in the year from an undiagnosed heart-related condition and had just returned from the Cleveland Clinic where she, (her husband) Greg and young Finnigan had traveled for care,” Monroe County Democrats Chairman Rick Dietz said in an email.

IU Alumni Association Director of Diversity Programs Clarence Boone said Travis was a volunteer leader with the Alumni Association and served as Asian Alumni Association president in addition to her off-campus work.

“She was a delight to work with — a visionary — and always gave diligent thought to small details in programming and was able to engage alumni,” he said.

Boone said he and Travis did volunteer broadcasting work, reading the news for community radio station WFHB Fire House Broadcasting.

Travis served on the Monroe County Council from 2005 to 2009 and sought election once again as an at-large candidate this fall.

“Sophia personified kindness — a dense gravitational kindness — and wielded a gentle strength that could move mountains. And move all those around her. And did many times over,” Dietz said.

On Thursday morning, Senate Democrat Leader and Lt. Gubernatorial candidate Vi Simpson, D-Ellettsvile, also released a statement about Travis’ passing.

“A public servant, she gave her time and leadership to improve the lives of the people of Monroe County,” Simpson said in the release. “As a friend, she enlightened our lives with her artistic spirit and thoughtful actions. Sophia will be missed.”

Melanie Castillo-Cullather, director of the Asian Culture Center, remembers Travis’ artistic spirit.

Castillo-Cullather first met Travis in 1999 when Travis came to the ACC for a Korean language class.

Travis was already familiar with the language, which she learned from her mother, but sought formal instruction to polish her abilities.

“Sophia’s visit to the center turned into a lasting relationship,” Castillo-Cullather said in an email.

She also remembers Travis volunteering to organize concerts in the ACC as a way of attracting visitors.

Travis played the accordion, Castillo-Cullather said. Despite fears the center’s limited space would cause students to not enjoy themselves, she said, they had a great time.

“Sophia and her music showed us that there are no boundaries and, regardless of how small or big, we can make things happen at the center,” Castillo-Cullather said. “That experience was very telling of Sophia. She was always optimistic.”

Castillo-Cullather said Travis’ optimism continued even after she shared the news of her health condition with the Asian Alumni Association.

“We are heartbroken and very sad upon learning that she passed away last night,” she said. “She will be greatly missed.”


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