Sherry McKibben

Sherry McKibben, who died last month while vacationing in Mexico, was remembered by family, friends and colleagues as a woman who dedicated her life to helping those on society's margins. (Courtesy of the McKibben family)

There was music, laughter, applause and tears Saturday as hundreds of people gathered to remember former Edmonton city councillor and longtime social worker Sherry McKibben.

McKibben, 69, died suddenly while on vacation in Mexico last month.

Jason Foster, McKibben's friend and collaborator, said she fought for decades to give voice to those who otherwise would not be heard.

"She touched so many different communities — both neighbourhoods she lived in and the various other circles of people who were committed to doing things for social justice — we've all lost someone this week," Foster said. "We've all lost a huge anchor in our work, in our passions, that we care about — we're going to miss her in many, many ways."

McKibben was dedicated to making life better for those on society's margins, Foster said.

"Her lifelong commitment to make sure everyone in our city is included, is respected and is valued — people living in poverty, gays and lesbians, street-involved people, seniors in the latter part of her life — she was always constantly working, being a leader to try and make change happen for those segments of our society that often get ignored by those who pay attention to other interests."

McKibben's career as a social worker and community activist began in the 1970s in British Columbia.

She won a seat on Edmonton city council  in 1994, seeing in the creation of the Edmonton Arts Council, but she was unsuccessful in two campaigns for the Alberta legislature as a New Democrat.

Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason, who attended McKibben's memorial, issued a statement on behalf of the party just after her death.

Her commitment to helping Edmontonians led her to become executive director for the Norwood Child and Family Resource Centre, the Boyle McCauley Health Centre and HIV Edmonton.

Those closest to her say her legacy will live on.

At the time of her death, McKibben was working with former city councillor Michael Phair to help LGBT seniors — work he says he plans to see through to the end.

"We got started and have been doing some work with about eight or nine us as a group as such," Phair said, "and we'll find a way to continue without her."