Two years ago, a new relationship brought Toni Delacorte Ladenburg from Washington, D.C., to Stillwater. At the time, she told her brother she wasn't sure the relationship would last -- but that the move would.
"The relationship didn't," said Nils Ladenburg. "But the town did."
Ladenburg died Friday of lung cancer at her Stillwater home. She was 67. Although she lived in Stillwater for only two years, she made many good friends at the end of her life and was deeply involved with helping people achieve and maintain sobriety through Alcoholics Anonymous, he said.
"She melded into this Stillwater community so well," he said. "When she gave you a hug, she meant it. And when she gave you a kick in the pants, you deserved it."
Ladenburg was born Toni Delacorte in St. Louis. After attending Cornell University, she moved to San Francisco, where she started a career in communications by joining Greenpeace's fledgling Save The Whales campaign to stop the commercial killing of whales.
"She started that with no money," Ladenburg said. "They got to the point where they got enough to send an entourage to fly to Japan to meet with the government. She did that on a shoestring."
She continued to work for "underdog" organizations, charities and animal protection groups, he said. She also was a lifelong lover of golden retrievers, and always adopted dogs that needed rescuing, he said. In fact, her first company in San Francisco was called "Delacorte and Dog."
Ladenburg later became press secretary for Tom Hayden during his run for the U.S. Senate, and when he was married to Jane Fonda. She also worked for George McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign in California.
But San Francisco in the 1970s was a difficult place for her in other ways, her brother said.
She struggled with addiction throughout her life, he said. She was able to kick alcohol, staying sober for 17 years with the help of those in AA, but never could kick the cigarettes, he said.
"Her early death was directly related to smoking," he said. "She deserved to live longer than she did -- she had great spirit."
Ladenburg eventually went to work for Ogilvy & Mather, the advertising and communications company, where she specialized in health care.
She was married three times, Ladenburg said, but never had children. But she was always willing to lend her communications skills to the animal causes she loved, he said.
She moved to Washington D.C., 12 years ago and worked in public relations for many health organizations, and then for New York-based North American Precis Syndicate. She continued her work for NAPS in Stillwater until the week she died.
And, Ladenburg said, she made sure that her last two golden retrievers and two cats had homes.
A memorial celebration will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday at White Bear Unitarian Church in Mahtomedi.
Josephine Marcotty • 612-673-7394