October 21, 2021

They called her ‘Mrs. Republican’

Longtime GOP legislator, activist Shirley Ann Fish, 90, remembered

Cortland County Seal

Shirley Ann Fish was the first woman to lead Cortland County’s Budget and Finance Committee.

She led Cortland County’s Republican Committee, too, and was a pioneer to female politicians across the county, leading one person to call her “Mrs. Republican.”

“When I met her we didn’t have that many women in politics,” said Legislator Sandra Price (D-Virgil, Harford) said.

Fish, 90, died Friday. She was born in 1929 in Syracuse, and moved to Cortland in 1960, staying for 56 years.

In 1973, she was elected to the Cortland County Legislature representing the northern half of Cortlandville, excluding the village of McGraw. She went on to serve four consecutive terms, Price said.

She also became the first woman to chair the Budget and Finance Committee.

Joan Finch, a former secretary to Fish, said Fish was known for having her hands all over politics from the local level up to the national level and being very knowledgeable.

“I called her Mrs. Republican,” Finch said. “If anybody had a question, people would ask her and she would know. She didn’t even need to read the bylaws or anything.”

Fish served on several committees including the judicial committee, health committee and special activities committee.

She continued to keep her hand in politics even after leaving the legislature, serving as the chairwoman of the Cortland County Republican Committee for about three years after taking over from Andrew Jewett in 2004. She was named Republican of the year in 2006.

“She was a wonderful business woman and honest and not afraid to speak up,” Connie White, Cortland County Republican chairwoman said. “She set the pace for other women.”

Fish also had a love for animals, and had become the manager of the Cortland County SPCA.

“That was a passion for her,” Price said. “She cared about Cortland, she cared about people and she cared about animals.”

“She’s certainly got respect in the area,” Connie White said. “I respected her.”

Before retiring at the age of 63, Fish worked at the bursar’s office at SUNY Cortland.

She is survived by her three children and their spouses, Mark and Jill Fish; Brian and Pamela Fish and Karen and Darrell Brown; six grandchildren, Bryanna, Mathew, Megan, Patrick, Corydon and Samuel; and three great-grandchildren, Ryker, Alaina and Jamesyn.

Calling hours will be from 10 to 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Anthony’s Church, 312 Locke Road, Groton.

Services will follow and interment will be at St. Anthony’s Cemetery in Groton.