Life Story: Hepatitis C advocate was 49
Sherri Ziegler was a strong advocate for education about Hepatitis C and services for those affected by the virus.
She helped start the California Hepatitis Alliance, founded the Nor-Cal Hepatitis C Network, was a founding member the National Hepatitis C Advocacy Council and a member of the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable and the California Hepatitis C Task Force.
She often appeared before legislators in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.
All because she couldn't find any information about the virus when she was diagnosed.
"She went in search for information ... searching out and finding what was out there," said her sister, Jeanee Marler of Paradise. "The more she found out, the more depressing (it was) because nothing was out there."
Sherri Rae Ziegler, 49, of Yuba City, died June 26 at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center due to a brain aneurysm, according to her family.
Born in Sacramento, the longtime Yuba City resident was a graduate of Yuba City High School.
Sherri never knew exactly how she contracted Hep C, her sister noted.
It could have been from the use of intravenous drugs, a problem all her siblings have confronted, said eldest brother Gerry Mains of Paradise. Or it could have been from a blood transfusion, Jeanee added.
However it came about, Sherri took "something that afflicted her (and) turned around and helped others," said Lou Binninger, community liaison with the Church of Glad Tidings in Yuba City.
"I think she must have realized there was a great void in the valley for treatment and education and she was determined to change that."
Sherri's involvement in the community had already been growing, Lou said. When the church started its program "Babies out of Bondage" — with church members caring for babies born to mothers serving time in prison at the Valley State Prison for Women at Chowchilla — Sherri was one of the first to take a child, Lou remembered.
And when the baby's mother asked to live with Sherri after her time in prison, she said yes, setting off an unexpected part of the program that now helps women transition from a drug addict/parolee to a productive member of society, Lou added.
"I don't think she intended to be the groundbreaker, but she was."
Sherri's personal plan was to expand the Nor-Cal Network's services throughout rural communities in the North State, said longtime friend and co-worker Melinda Borja.
Melinda was Sherri's administrative assistant for more than 12 years and will help continue the advocate's vision.
"I think the future of the task force is extremely bright," Melinda said. "I'm not a 'Sherri' and not able to deal with things the way that she did, (but) it doesn't matter as long as we keep the vision in front of us."
"I'm really proud of her," Jeanee said. "I was surprised with as much stuff as she had going on" and the physical pain she endured that Sherri would do all that she did.
"That's what's so amazing — she would just give, give, give," Gerry said. "Sometimes it's the giving that gets the focus off of yourself."
Contact Appeal-Democrat reporter Leticia Gutierrez at 749-4722 or at firstname.lastname@example.org