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Encinitas Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan Passes Away

After a 2005 cancer diagnosis, Encinitas Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan has died at age 63.

Encinitas City Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan has died of cancer at age 63.

In an email that went out to the public Saturday morning, fellow Encinitas Councilwoman Teresa Barth wrote: “It is with great sadness that I tell you Maggie passed away last night.”

Houlihan was born June 16, 1948, in Hollywood and raised in Long Beach. In 1970 she moved to Leucadia to raise her young son, Chris, after she fell in love with the community’s charm, namely its beaches and tree canopy along South Coast Highway 101. Here she quickly earned a reputation as an animal lover, and was known to rescue frogs on the road during rainstorms, as well as turtles, iguanas, cats and dogs.

In 1975 she completed her degree at UCSD and was subsequently hired to work in the university’s library—a career that ultimately earned her Employee of the Year in 1993.

Ever dedicated to animal-welfare issues, in 1990 she co-founded the Spay and Neuter Action Project, and in 1998 she founded Wee Companions Small Animal Rescue for guinea pigs, rats and hamsters.

Houlihan was elected to the Encinitas City Council in 2000, and in 2004 and 2008 her campaigns generated the most votes in the City Council race. During her stint on council, Houlihan served as mayor and was largely credited with increasing transparency in government, which has included televising council meetings, uploading city documents and implementing an electronic notice system through which residents can get any and all agendas from council, commission and committee meetings. She was also credited with creating the Pet Health Expo and Encinitas Garden Tour.

In 2005, Houlihan was diagnosed with cancer and pronounced cancer-free after treatment. Four years later, it returned.  she revealed that she wouldn’t be electing chemotherapy to treat the endometrial cancer that had spread throughout her body.

Shortly after making that announcement, Houlihan told Encinitas Patch that she believed "we need to grab the gusto each and every day as it comes, whether sunny, rainy, filled with challenges or easy." 

Houlihan lived up to that sentiment, continuing to serve her constituents by participating in City Council meetings via phone as her health declined. 

Earlier this month, Rancho Coastal Humane Society hosted Dozens of people gathered to celebrate her years of dedication of animal welfare and service to the community, something she was visibly moved by.

“This is so typical Encinitas,” Houlihan said of the public outpour of love that day.

During that public tribute, former Del Mar City Councilwoman Crystal Crawford expressed gratitude and admiration for Houlihan.

“I recently heard that happiness is found somewhere between community service and love, and I think that’s Maggie," she said. "Maggie is all about love and community service, and she is one doggone happy woman.”

Houlihan is survived by her son, Chris Theobald, and husband, Ian Thompson.

Please feel free to upload any photos here on Encinitas Patch, and please share your stories, memories and condolences in the comments below.

Jennifer Reed September 17, 2011 at 07:32 PM
I am very sad to hear about Maggie's death. She was such a spirited, strong woman--and I respected her immensely. To know Maggie through her accomplishments was one thing, but to sit down and just have a conversation with her as a person showed me just how amazing she really was. I never got to hear what Maggie thought of my job change into the veterinary world, but I think she'd support it--not just because of her love for animals, but because she believed in making dreams come to life.
Danny Salzhandler September 17, 2011 at 07:51 PM
Maggie was always a friend and supporter of the 101 Artists' Colony and Full Moon Poets. I thought of this poem by Robert Kelly, a long-time Full Moon Poet who passed away last week. "Where does a song go After its notes have faded away Where does the soul go After its host has returned to clay Does not the gentle wind Give wings to the song and soul And lift them up to lofty heights As the bell begins to toll For is not the gentle wind Keeper of the spirit and the soul Which are held together by the song 'Til time to play anothe role..." by Robert Kelly
Irene Kratzer September 18, 2011 at 01:50 AM
My deepest sympathy go Maggie's family. She was one in a million and the community has lost a great supporter. Irene Kratzer
Robert Sherman September 18, 2011 at 04:24 AM
I think of Maggie everyday. She lent me relaxing CDs that I play for my clients during massage sessions. She was a client and a friend. Blessings to her. Robert Sherman
Phil Fischman September 18, 2011 at 02:23 PM
We truly love Maggie and wish her family much peace. She lived a life of generosity and virtue. We should all live so well and love so much as Maggie Houlihan. Blessings....
jerry September 18, 2011 at 06:09 PM
Thanks for everthing Maggie! Love ya
Mary Ann Marks September 19, 2011 at 04:38 PM
I met Maggie only once at a women's political luncheon. I was so struck by her vibrance and cheeriness. She seemed to have a zest for all that she was involved in. I'd always hoped to meet up with her again. I'm very sad to hear of her passing, the world she touched is a better place for having had her a part of it, albeit for too short of a time.
Shannon September 19, 2011 at 05:25 PM
Maggie was such a wonderful inspirational woman, and always a joy to be around, even while going through the trials of fighting her illness. Her postive, loving nature just poured out of her. Sometime ago I read a book that said the true measure of a man is not how much he has done, but how much he has done for others. By this measure, Maggie has lived a very good and full life. I will miss her presence, but will not forget her example on how to live a life full of meaning. Hugs to you Maggie! -- Shannon
Judd Handler September 19, 2011 at 06:26 PM
I only met Maggie once but I did speak to her on the phone for her input into Wal Mart possibly opening in Encinitas. By far was she the most courteous and accommodating of the city council. A couple of them didn't return calls. Maggie returned mine and took all the time in the world for me. From what I've been hearing from others, this is a microcosm of Maggie's essence.
Pam September 19, 2011 at 10:58 PM
Pam, Maggie always could make you smile even while fighting for her life. I will miss seeing her around town at our special places. She was a determined lady who didn't let death stand in her way in her acts of kindness - always taking care of the less fortunate creatures up to the time she passed away. She has left us her legacy to continue - to help those who are less fortunate whether it is animals or people, to preserve the quality of lifestyle of Encinitas & San Diego and to spread a little joy around. If only we all had her energy and determination, but she has left us her examples on how to life to it's fullest and her chairty to continue. I send my deepest sympathy to Ian and her family for their great loss.

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