Deedee Corradini, global leader for women's rights, dies at 70

PARK CITY, Utah (March 1, 2015) - Women’s Ski Jumping USA has lost its tenacious and beloved leader, and the world has lost a great influencer in sport equality and women’s rights.

Deedee Corradini died March 1,2015 at her home in Park City, Utah. She was 70. 

In a statement issued by the family:

“Our amazing mother, wife, sister, aunt, friend, and mentor, died today at her home in Park City, surrounded by the light, love, and gratitude of her loved ones. She fought a fierce six-month battle with stage 4 metastasized non-small cell lung cancer (the non-smoking type).  

Our lives will never be the same without her, yet we celebrate her legacy with such JOY. We feel her grace, and know she will continue to guide us deeply though her courageous spirit and extraordinary light that lives within us all."

 Deedee Corradini at Utah Olympic Park in Park City in 2012. Photo by Dan Campbell

Deedee Corradini at Utah Olympic Park in Park City in 2012. Photo by Dan Campbell

As the only president of Women’s Ski Jumping USA for more than 10 years, Corradini was the outspoken and unyielding leader in the global fight to allow women to participate in ski jumping at the Olympic level. That dream was realized in the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games. 

Corradini is the past president of the distinguished International Women’s Forum. She was a Senior Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at The Richard W. Riley Institute of Government, Politics and Public Leadership at Furman University, and senior vice president of Prudential Utah Real Estate. Corradini is the only female mayor of Salt Lake City, serving from 1992-2000, and former president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

“There’s no one else who could have led us and made the difference she did. She was a force. She was amazing to watch,” said Peter Jerome, founder of WSJ-USA. “We will deeply miss her, but also are profoundly grateful that we knew her and experienced this great journey with her at the helm.”

• Details about the celebration of her life will be released soon.

• Please email wsjusainfo@wsjusa.com to share your thoughts and condolences for inclusion on a public memorial page at http://wsjusa.com.

 

More on Deedee Corradini -----------

A dream realized

“It was time to fight, and sometimes women have to fight for everything.”
- Deedee Corradini, in the documentary, “Ready To Fly”

Deedee Corradini sat rosy-cheeked with perfect posture, her fingers loosely grasping a glass of white wine – her favorite. Her best friend and husband John Huebner at her side, smiling and soaking up every inch of her contentment. 

It was a late dinner on the eve of one of the most satisfying events of Corradini’s life — Feb.11, 2014, the day she would see women ski jumpers make history in the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

It wasn’t just about seeing women jump for the first time ever in the Games. It was about inclusion.

 WSJ-USA founder Peter Jerome, Alissa Johnson, Jessica Jerome, Lindsey Van and Deedee Corradini at the Olympic Trials, December 2013. Photo by Dan Campbell

WSJ-USA founder Peter Jerome, Alissa Johnson, Jessica Jerome, Lindsey Van and Deedee Corradini at the Olympic Trials, December 2013. Photo by Dan Campbell

“All I’ve ever wanted is justice for these young women. I wanted to see them marching into the Opening Ceremonies, heads held high, knowing they deserved to be there,” she said.

Corradini often shared this vision with reporters. And every time, her voice would crack, she would take a second to compose, and then launch into an impassioned speech that outlined why the fight mattered and why the world should care.  

“This isn’t just about the Americans or Canadians,” Corradini would say. “It’s for little girls all over the world who’ve been told they can’t do something just because they’re girls.”

That sentiment resonated - all the way to Japan.

While waiting to meet friends in the Radisson Blu lobby, near Sochi Olympic venues, Corradini was stopped by a Japanese woman who looked to be in her 40s. She asked Corradini if she was the “the mayor who helped ski jumpers?” Corradini replied yes, and then in soft English, the woman told Corradini, “I am the mother of Sara Takanashi. Thank you for everything you did for my daughter.”

“She was nearly in tears. I couldn’t believe it,” Corradini said at the time.

Takanashi was a teenage phenom who had risen quickly in the sport, winning almost every World Cup competition that season, breaking hill records left and right. When the push for Olympic ski jumping began, she was just 6 years old.  

A Chance Meeting

Corradini and Lindsey Van met more than 10 years ago at a Park City meeting on how to become a Realtor. Corradini was experiencing life beyond Utah politics and Van, one of the top jumpers in the world, was following the advice of her father who said she “better have a fall-back to ski jumping.”

Corradini and Van were a generation apart, both breaking barriers — one in politics and the other in sport.

“Deedee pushed me, she pushed us all to do more than we ever thought we were capable of,” said Van, inaugural women’s World Champion and Corradini’s protege. “She taught me to be more than an athlete – that I had a responsibility to stand up and make a difference. She was right.”

Corradini then met Peter Jerome, father to rising star Jessica Jerome, and was soon voted president of the fledgling 501c3 nonprofit Women’s Ski Jumping USA. A tribe of unlikely parents, athletes and volunteers led by Corradini began a 10-year mission, lobbying across the world for sport equality, nearly taking them to the Supreme Court of Canada, and finally to victory in Sochi, Russia.

Corradini told Park City Magazine in 2012, “You know, running for mayor was tough, running Salt Lake City was tough, getting the 2002 Games was extremely tough, but this was the most frustrating because of the injustice. 

“It was a wrong that I had to right, and when I’m determined about something, I usually make it happen.”

An international upbringing

Corradini was fluent in Arabic and French. From ages 3-14 she lived in Lebanon and Syria where her father taught at the local university. She recently recounted those times growing up in lands that others found strange, but to her it was home.

“Those places are in me. It’s who I am.”

 Corradini's advocacy for women's ski jumping took her across the globe through lobbying efforts and media outreach. Photo by Peter Jerome

Corradini's advocacy for women's ski jumping took her across the globe through lobbying efforts and media outreach. Photo by Peter Jerome

In 2012, Corradini was recognized by Women’s eNews as part of the “21 Leaders for the 21st Century.” At the time, she was president of the International Women's Forum, which has advanced women's leadership in more than 26 countries since 1982. 

Women’s eNews described her interest in international affairs as rooted in her childhood:

“Though she lived in urban centers, she often traveled to rural areas with her family. Corradini remembers outings to tent camps and villages where homes were made of mud and straw. There, she observed women and their daughters doing much of the hard work. Those many experiences helped guide her into a lifetime of advocacy.”

“Ever since, I had a sense that women could change the world if we could get them educated," Corradini told Women’s eNews.

She maintained that core belief with her advocacy in ski jumping – from the court steps in Vancouver, British Columbia, surrounded by cameras, urging Van and Jerome to take the mic and speak their mind, to the one-on-one guidance she gave young ski jumpers.

In the dark morning hours on April 6, 2011, a teenaged Sarah Hendrickson sat at Corradini’s dining room table with her teammates Abby Hughes, Alissa Johnson, Van and others. Corradini fiddled with the speaker on her cell phone. They gathered to listen to a press conference by the International Olympic Committee declaring whether they would get to jump in 2014. 

No media was there, only a documentary crew. The director asked the jumpers how they thought it would go that day. A reserved Hendrickson put her coffee cup to her mouth, didn’t respond and looked toward Corradini. 

“It’s gotta go our way. We’ve been here before. We don’t want to be here again,” Corradini told the director. She then crossed her fingers, looked at Hendrickson and mouthed, “It’s going to go our way.” 

Fifteen minutes later there was joy and then relief. They were in.

Hendrickson would go on to win the 2013 World Championship title, setting herself up as a favorite in Sochi. But just six months out from the Games, she suffered a devastating knee injury. She fought back and made the U.S. Olympic Team. Little did she know she would have an impact on her mentor.

In January, Corradini was battling the cancer with everything she had. “I’m channeling Sarah’s fighting spirit,” a resolute Corradini told Melissa Brooke, WSJ-USA’s executive director. “She is inspiring for me.”

Every day in recent weeks Corradini would receive emails, texts, phone calls and cards from people wishing her well and sending her positive thoughts. Her daughter, Andrea, spent hours reading the notes to her mother – a near daily ritual that provided great strength for them both.

“…just as I think I know the extent of the gift mom has given to this world, I read your messages to her and find yet another layer of the influence she has had on so many people,” Andrea Corradini wrote. 

Last week Corradini, women’s ski jumping’s greatest advocate, was presented with a World Championships bib, signed by 30 of the top women jumpers in the world. It was more than a memento. It was a symbol that anything is possible. 

Corradini lived her life believing everything is possible. And the lives of the young women she influenced are forever changed.

It’s been difficult to find the words to get across what Deedee means to me,” said ski jumper Alissa Johnson. “Here is a quote from the author J.M. Barrie: ‘The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.’

“Thank you Deedee. You gave wings to those of us who never doubted we could fly,” Johnson said.

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Women's Ski Jumping USA

Women’s Ski Jumping USA, a 501c3 nonprofit, is the primary support organization for the U.S. National Team. With the help of a small staff and lots of generous volunteers, the organization runs the U.S. women’s ski jumping program and raises the necessary funds to pay for coaching, travel, training, equipment and a junior developmental program.