Note: This story was originally published in Newsday on Aug. 20, 2011.
Nora Bredes, who led Long Island's fight to halt the opening of the Shoreham nuclear power plant, has died after a long battle with breast cancer.
Bredes, 60, died Thursday in upstate Rochester, where she moved in 1998. She entered Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester Monday for abdominal pain after returning from an oceanside vacation in Montauk.
News of Bredes' death stunned many because her husband, Jack Huttner, said she kept private her fight against the disease, which struck in 1998 and recurred five years ago. "She just wanted to keep going at what she was doing for as long as she could," he said.
During her 30-year public career, Bredes not only blocked the opening of the controversial nuclear plant, but also went on to head the New York League of Conservation Voters and served as a Suffolk County legislator for eight years, during which she championed a ban on smoking in public places and creation of a fund to preserve open space and farmland. She ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1996.
A year after moving upstate, Bredes became head of the Susan B. Anthony Center for Women's Leadership at the University of Rochester. Last year, she was named head of the Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy, a state version of EMILY'S List, a national group that supports woman candidates.
But her biggest battle was the successful derailing of a nuclear plant, one that the Long Island Lighting Co. tried to license with the backing of then-President George H.W. Bush. "It was a fight that was unprecedented anywhere in America," said Patrick Halpin, a former Suffolk County executive. "And Nora Bredes ... was fearless in speaking the truth to the power leadership, including the White House."
As organizer of the ragtag Shoreham Opponents Coalition, Bredes enlisted the county — and later the state — in a multimillion-dollar regulatory fight over issues including the plausibility of evacuating Long Island. The fight led to the LILCO board's agreement in 1989 to shut down the plant, which was fully decommissioned in 1994.
"Without Nora, Shoreham would be operating today," said George Hoffman, who worked with her in the Shoreham fight and is now Islip Town's chief of staff. "She fundamentally changed the protest, taking a small, disorganized group and made it media savvy and focused."
One of those Bredes enlisted was then-Gov. Mario Cuomo, who on Friday night recalled her as "very bright, she was very tough and very effective ... You had to admire her."
Both friends and foes said Bredes had a steely resolve but never burned bridges. "She had a graceful tenacity," said Gregory Blass, a Republican and former Legislature presiding officer who is now social services commissioner.
Former Democratic Presiding Officer Sondra Bachety recalled private caucuses that she and Bredes had in the women's restroom amid nasty legislative debates. "She always tried to find common ground even with people I didn't want to talk to," Bachety said.
Bredes had planned to headline a Sept. 22 fundraiser for local Democratic candidate Kara Hahn of Stony Brook in Bredes' old legislative district.
Bredes grew up in Huntington Bay Hills and graduated from Cornell University.
Bredes also is survived by her mother, Dorothy Black of Cleveland; three sons, Nathan of Madison, Wisc., and Tobias and Gabriel of upstate Pittsford; a brother, Donald, of Danville, Vt.; and a sister, Amy Bredes, of Port Jefferson.
Funeral arrangements were not available Friday night.