All eyes were on Betsy Ebeling as she choked up on the second night of the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
A delegate from Illinois, Ebeling, who died on Sunday at 72, was on hand to announce the vote totals for her childhood best friend Hillary Clinton, a fixture in her life for decades ever since the two met as sixth graders in Park Ridge, Illinois.
“Hello fellow Democrats. On this historic, wonderful day, in honor of Dorothy and Hugh’s daughter, and my sweet friend — I know you’re watching — this one’s for you, Hill,” Ebeling said on July 26, 2016, her voice catching with emotion.
As she announced the 98 delegate votes from Illinois for Clinton, 71, Ebeling looked to the sky and smiled as she gave a friend a hug.
The special moment came after nearly six decades of friendship with the former secretary of state, who paid tribute to Ebeling on Tuesday by sharing an obituary published by the Chicago Tribune.
“A lovely tribute that captures what made Betsy Ebeling, my dear friend, so special to so many of us,” Clinton wrote. “She was our north star.”
In the years following her DNC appearance, Ebeling reflected fondly on the experience, noting that it was important to her to make sure Clinton’s late parents, Hugh and Dorothy Rodham, were included.
“I really felt the presence of her parents in the room that day and I wanted to make sure they were mentioned,” she said in a 2016 Clinton campaign video. “But standing there all that time, and it took forever, and all of a sudden they said, ‘Okay. We’re next.’ And I think that’s when it hit me, that she was really going to do this. It was going to happen.”
She continued, “It was overwhelming, in every sense of that word. I never really understood what overwhelming was until I was standing there, and I thought, ‘Wow.’”
Hugh died in 1993 and Dorothy in 2011.
Ebeling again addressed the weight of the DNC moment in a 2017 essay for Teen Vogue, in which she called it “one of the most incredible moments” of her life.
“I kept imagining the two of us as sixth graders, never believing the country would nominate a woman for president, let alone one of us!” she wrote. “I pulled myself together and said, ‘This one’s for you, Hill!’ ”
The New York Times later reported that Clinton and Ebeling’s friends were in the audience that day, several of them in matching red, white and blue sneakers they’d bought at Target.
Ebeling died in Arlington Heights, Illinois, after a lengthy breast cancer diagnosis, according to the Chicago-Sun Times.
“Betsy had been sick for sometime, but this was still pretty sudden,” a source close to both her and Clinton told PEOPLE. “It’s so sad.”