The fight for human rights drove Sarabel “Sally” Bosanko into the streets, the classroom and the halls of government.
“She made you think outside the box,” said her son Paul, of Salida, Colo. The family lived a comfortable life in Bloomington. But Bosanko reminded her children that not everyone was so lucky.
“She used to get us thinking how really good we had it while people living 5 miles away were living in poverty and not of their doing,” her son said. “Living in the suburbs, we never saw it until my mom got involved and stepped out of her comfort zone.”
After the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, a 7-year-old David Bosanko marched beside his mother and a throng of others along Plymouth Avenue N. “The street was filled with mostly black people and a sprinkling of white people.”
Marchers looked up and noticed someone on the roof of a nearby building. Fearing a sniper, David’s family and others hustled away from the street. “For a little kid with big eyes, that was something,” David said. Turns out it was a photographer, he said.
But that march etched in his memory is a reminder that his mother was committed to calling out injustices, fighting for equality and rallying for peace. She protested wars, supported the rights of gay people to marry and opposed restrictive voter ID laws.
“She was extremely courageous,” said her daughter, Margaret Werness, of Richfield.
Bosanko, 81, died Jan. 25 of complications from influenza A and pneumonia.
She grew up in Minneapolis’ Kenwood neighborhood in a Republican household that shaped her early political leanings. She was a member of the Young Republican League in Bloomington, attended the 1964 national party convention and spent many hours campaigning for her brother, Douglas Head, who served in the state House and then became the state’s last Republican attorney general, from 1967-1971. He lost a race for governor to DFLer Wendell Anderson.
While her brother was active in state politics, Bosanko served on the Bloomington Human Rights Commission from 1969 to 1976. Four years later, then-Gov. Al Quie appointed her to the state Human Rights Commission.
“She believed we shouldn’t be restricting people’s employment, housing and what they want to do because of race,” her daughter said.
She also believed people’s dreams shouldn’t be stifled by educational limits. So she taught reading skills at LDA Minnesota, formerly the Learning Disabilities Association.
“She loved the challenge,” said her husband, Michael.
Even her political activism, first as a Republican, then as a DFLer, was about teaching, her husband said. She went to political caucuses to help educate people and get them involved.
“I have so much respect for her,” said Coral Houle, a longtime friend and former Bloomington mayor. “She was authentic, always learning and courageous.”
Bosanko suffered polio and scoliosis as a child, but she didn’t let longtime health problems hold her back.
“She was always positive about moving forward and not wallowing in self-pity,” said her son Michael, of Latham, N.Y. “She was quite a role model for me. I learned to be optimistic about life and help others. I could never match her achievements, but I try to match her spirit for life.”
Bosanko is also survived by sisters Ruth Horner of Pacific Grove, Calif., Mary Clark of Gladstone, Mich., and Marge Loeffler of Charlotte, N.C.; and eight grandchildren. Services have been held.