LGBTQ activist Stephanie Mott was fondly remembered at a memorial service Wednesday as an angelic trailblazer and beloved friend.
“She is, and will always be, my better angel,” said Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas.
Mott, 61, was a transgender woman who paved the way toward equal rights for the LGBTQ community in Kansas. She suffered from an apparent heart attack and died March 4.
Colleagues and friends celebrated her life in a service on the steps of the Capitol.
Gov. Laura Kelly told about 50 people attending the service about Mott’s trailblazing efforts toward equality for the LGBTQ community in Kansas.
“I knew Stephanie, not as well as many of you, but if you’re active in this community, it was impossible not to know her,” Kelly said.
Kelly recalled several remarks made by Mott at a women’s march rally.
“She knew how to share her story, and how to encourage action,” Kelly said. “Perhaps most importantly, she was committed to getting others involved too. She brought people together to engage with issues they cared about. She was truly a catalyst for change.”
Witt leads the Equality Kansas organization, which aims to end discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
Even after Mott's passing, she will be a guiding force for change, Witt said.
“Stephanie was not done. She was not ready to leave this earth,” Witt said. “She still had a lot to do. Not because we wanted her to do it, but because she was committed to this work and this struggle. Now it’s up to us to carry on.”
Davis Hammet, who helped create the Equality House in Topeka, said Mott’s interests extended into areas of racial and economic justice.
“She grew a garden of progress while she was here,” Hammet said. “But for us, she left an entire field of seeds planted. Those seeds are in teenagers in our schools, who saw positive headlines that framed their lives with dignity, not by accident.”
Sandra Stenzel, a friend of Mott, encouraged the crowd to remember her often.
“There’s a saying that the only way we really live on after death is in the speaking of other people,” Stenzel said. “Please speak Stephanie Mott’s name every day.”
A gathering honoring Mott’s life has been scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Topeka Performing Arts Center.