Margie Frost, director of a transitional shelter for homeless East Valley men and former Mesa Woman of the Year, died Saturday morning. She was 63. Frost entered the Mayo Clinic Hospital last week, diagnosed with liver failure, according to a statement released by Joanie Flatt, a family spokeswoman.
Because Frost had only 5 percent of her liver remaining, the Mayo staff induced a coma until she could receive a liver transplant.
The exact time and cause of her death were unavailable.
“She was on the list to receive a liver transplant within 48 hours,” said Carol McCormack, president of Mesa United Way and a longtime friend. “I got a call asking if I heard about Margie, and I thought she already had the transplant. She had died.”
Frost was a 35-year veteran of East Valley community agencies such as United Way and served as director of the East Valley Men’s Center, a facility helping homeless men re-enter society. Frost is credited with the center’s founding in 1998, when she served on the Task Force on Homelessness.
“Margie has been the mom of Mesa,” said City Councilman Mike Whalen, who knew Frost well. “She has taken part in every major issue that faced the city by pouring out her heart and soul. It’s a great loss.”
The center opened its doors Dec. 17, 1998. Under Frost’s leadership, it has become a facility that now houses up to 84 men. The center uses a “tough love” approach in helping male residents overcome homelessness.
Frost was often described as a “mother figure,” cooking for residents at times and always making sure they kept to their plans for developing self-sufficiency, which included sobriety, employment and saving money.
“Every one of those men down there is her child,” Whalen said.
Frost’s plan involved a contract between Mesa taxpayers and the city’s homeless — center residents would stick to their plans for rehabilitation and Mesa citizens would continue to provide resources to facilitate their efforts.
Last December, Frost wrote an open letter to East Valley residents which appeared in the Tribune, asking them to donate meals and supplies.
“Margie was a one-of-a-kind person,” McCormack said. “She was a tireless advocate for people so easily overlooked and not thought of, and she didn’t hesitate to bring it to your attention.”
McCormack said a trademark phrase of Frost’s was “God didn’t make any trash.”
Councilman Kyle Jones knew Frost through her many endeavors to improve the city. Recently, Frost addressed Jones and other city officials at a community forum on the proposed sales and property tax referendums. He said that the combined intensity and softer, motherly side he witnessed in her will be greatly missed.
“We’ve lost one of those unique people you can’t ever really replace,” he said. “She was one that you could always expect to get a hug from. You always knew where she stood.
“There will never be another one like her.”
Frost was noted for her tirelessness in serving the community. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, she traveled to the small town of Gautier, Miss., to deliver financial assistance, and school and medical supplies.
“She was as gracious and caring as you can imagine,” Jones said. “She didn’t command respect; she earned it.”
Whalen, deeply saddened by Frost’s death, said he remembered her as both a gentle person and, at times, possessing a fierce determination.
“It’s been a very reflective day for me, remembering what a good person she was,” he said. “She was feisty. You made sure you had all your facts together before you confronted Margie with anything.”